as a Martial Art; Somafera
as Martial Art (Training;
Issues; Styles; Berserker Basics); Runic
Berserking Technique; Wod
Raising Technique; Stages in Learning
Somafera; Burning the Wod; Control and the Gangr; The Dagaz
Moment; Don't Fight the Gangr; Emotional Elevation Technique; Healing
Yourself; How Do I Control It?; Initiations; Meditation; Pain as a
Teacher; The Road Ahead; Svipal-Nature and the IOBF; True and
MADSPACE: Basic Techniques for Encouraging Madspace; The Eureka Technique; Psymech Eureka Technique: Overview; Basic Psymech Eureka Technique; Intermediate Psymech Eureka Technique; Advanced Psymech Eureka Technique; Stages in Learning Somafera; Meditation; Emotional Elevation Technique; True and False Helblindi; How Do I Control It?; Burning the Wod; Svipal-Nature and the IOBF; The Road Ahead
The berserkergang is not simply a religious practice. It is also a martial art. It functions by raising and directing the flow of an energy called wod, focusing it to amplify natural physical abilities. For this reason it is a form of internal martial art, like Tai Chi Chuan and Kung Fu are, as opposed to an external style like Karate or Taekwondo. The berserkergang has no forms, no "kata". It concentrates on the three basics of all martial art: strength, speed, and right action.
Wod amplifies the strength. This is one of the berserk's most basic weapons, as a fight can be ended simply by causing enough damage in a short enough period of time, or by grappling with and completely subduing an attacker, or just knocking him out. But reservoirs of wod are not limitless, and expending it in striking or moving drains the berserk, making him or her unable to call upon it again for some variable time. This can leave to berserk vulnerable to a sudden counterattack. One of the most important things for the berserk to learn is wod management. This involves raising the wod to a high enough level that it can amplify strength when used, but so that it is not all spent on the attack. Learning also to increase the maximum amount of wod that can be raised and learning to decrease the time it takes to raise it are critical to the fighting berserk, as is learning to hold high levels of wod in reserve, without using it for physical action.
Wod also amplifies the berserk's speed. This increased speed of movement allows excellent use of stop-attacks, where an opponent's attack, just begun, is countered not with a block or evasion but by making a more rapid strike of the berserk's own. For this reason the berserk must learn to move as efficiently as possible, to make no unnecessary movements of any kind. The fewer the wasted movements, the faster (and stronger) the motion. This increased speed also allows the berserk to make use of various tactics of deception. One such is standing out of distance, or what would be out of distance for a non-berserk fighter. This will in many opponents cause them to lower their guards at least a little to conserve energy, allowing the berserk to suddenly and surprisingly rush in and hit home.
The third piller of the berserker style of fighting is right action. This is attaining the knowledge to take whatever action is most right, most appropriate, for the circumstances of the fight. This is why the berserkergang makes no use of forms. Forms create expectations, but are only really appropriate in a limited number of circumstances. This can lead to counterproductive reflexes and missed opportunities. Berserkers tend to cultivate an open observing state of mind, free, flexible, ready to do anything. It is a concept similar to why professional drivers "float the suspension" by stepping on neither gas nor brakes over rough patches of road. When things are prone to changing rapidly and any action at all might be called for, and if the car (or body) is busy doing the wrong thing, there is that much more energy and momentum to be overcome before the proper remedy can be applied, and this additional delay could mean the difference between victory and defeat.
The berserker gains this knowledge of right action through various means. One way right action is gained is through heightened senses. Possessed by an animal spirit, the berserk has the sharper senses of that animal. (That's me speaking as a spiritual man. Speaking as a scientist I might say that the rapid processing of the sensory data going on in the mind in the unitary state of consciousness produces the appearance of sharper senses by more accurately and rapidly analysing them and their meanings.) Sharper vision allows for even slight flaws in the stance of an opponent to be noticed, and for the line of the opponent's attack to be predicted from just the slightest initial twitching of his body as the attack just begins. Sharper hearing can allow for increased indications as to the opponent's intentions, by picking up on subtly shifting stances or tensing muscles from the sounds of rustling clothing and creaking joints. Sharper smell can allow for the opponent's emotional/spiritual state to be determined, as the berserk in the unitary state has the ability to smell subtle hormonal changes like some animals do, enabling the berserk to smell fear, aggression, weakness, etc.
Another way the berserk gains the knowledge of right action is from the faster processing of the mind caused by elevated adrenaline levels, increased electrical energy in the nervous system, suppression of activity in the forebrain, and reliance upon the much faster processes of the hindbrain. Mind, body, and spirit functioning as one increases this processing speed by increasing the amount of physical resources being pumped into the processing (more parts of the brain than usual, powered by more parts of the body than usual, work to process each and every thought/reaction). This higher reaction speed makes the berserk more capable of mounting an effective defense to any attack as well as becoming quick enough to take advantage of small weaknesses in an opponent's defense. It also allows for the highly aggressive fighting style of the berserk to be safely performed. While many non-berserk scholars think that berserks just pressed their attacks madly with no thought for defense, in reality they were taking advantage of their extraordinary reflexes to make attack and defense one. By immediately reacting to the flaws and weaknesses in the opponent's defenses (mental, physical, and spiritual) berserks are able to make attacks that because of their lines do not allow the opponent any line of attack himself. Attack and defense in one motion. This creates a highly energetic, furious, aggressive attack, one that is continuous for long stretches of time. This circumvents a weakness many other martial arts are prone to, that of waiting, reacting, and backing up, things encouraged by many styles but vulnerable to manipulation by a knowledgeable opponent.
The effect all this increased rate of neural processing has is called psychetachia. This is the impression the berserk comes to have that time in the outside world suddenly seems to slow down. Falling objects float to the ground. Opponents move as if through molasses. It is critical to the development of the gangr as a martial art that the berserk learn to control this sense of psychetachia.
This increased rate of neural processing is the foundation for the gangr's most advanced technique, the Warfetter. Truly difficult to correctly perform, it is capable of defeating even an opponent superior in all other respects to the berserk. It should be used to take on an opponent who has resisted or is capable of resisting the berserk's other methods, but it should generally not be attempted at the beginning of a fight. For one thing this is because it takes no small amount of time to raise the wod high enough to perform it and it also takes time to observe the opponent well enough to enable it. For another thing this is because the Warfetter takes so much energy it will completely drain the berserk, leaving him or her very vulnerable to attack if it fails, so it should be saved as a last resort. The Warfetter is the expansion of the unitary state the berserk is in to encompass the opponent as well as the berserk's own self and animal-fetch. Once the berserk has observed the opponent for enough time (which varies greatly depending on circumstances) and has observed the range of strength, speed, and techniques available to that opponent, then the understanding resulting from that observation can become the object of ritual focus that creates the unitary state. (The object of ritual focus is the visualization, concept, mantra, or such thing used to deafferent the OAA, or Orientation Association Area, triggering the unitary state.) If this unitary state is formed in the correct way then it will coincide with a powerful triggering of the fight-or-flight response. This brings about a sudden massive increase in wod, supplementing the already high levels the berserk should have in reserve for this technique. The result of this is that suddenly the berserk is capable of knowing *exactly* what the opponent will do in response to a wide range of attacks. Once this occurs the berserk knows, instantly, what his opponent will do next in any circumstance. This anticipation allows him to forstall any motion the enemy makes, even before he begins it. The enemy's motions are stopped at the very "p" of "punch", the very "e" of "evade". Combined with the temporary super-speed (even higher than normally possible for a berserk) the effect is that the berserk can move freely while his opponent seems to stand still, frozen, bound (hence the name). I've never used it in an actual fight, though I've used it a few times in sparring matches. My opponent (a non-berserk) said it looked from his point of view like I suddenly moved so fast I became a blur, striking home several times before he could even raise a defense against the first blow.
There are several things the berserk can do as training to increase his or her abilities as a fighter. One is learning some basic wod raising techniques. One simple trigger for this is through hyperventilation. (Though it should be kept in mind that when the breath wants to change, it must change. Never fight the breath.) Another is causing pain, by such methods as yanking on the beard or hair, digging fingernails into flesh, and biting the lip. Still another is the C-back, where the back is rounded with the shoulders thrown back. This triggers wod in two ways. One is by putting pressure on the base of the lower neck, a location on the spine where many important nerves enter the spinal column, which causes a lot of adrenaline to be released for reasons not adequately understood. The other is because an instinctual response of the hypothalamus, the brain's "master switch", which panics when too much pressure is put on the spine, as it is then vulnerable to breaking easily. It causes adrenaline to be released at an increased rate in order to prevent this possibility, by giving the berserk a boost of strength. Whipping the head around (which should only be done by experienced martial artists, dancers, or such as know how to do it safely) does the same things by the same means. Grimacing, pulling the lips back while clenching the teeth (lightly, it is possible to crack teeth from clenching them in the gangr) also triggers wod. The theory behind this is that laying the ears back is a common mammalian sign of fear or aggression (such as with wolves, horses, and cats), and that humans still have an evolved-in trait causing us to associate the motion of certain muscles near the ears with these feelings, causing the triggering of physical processes associated with these feelings.
The first skill the berserk should seek to develop is to learn to react properly to dagaz moments. Dagaz is an old word meaning "twilight", and is a term I use to represent a default unitary state. Such default unitary states occur when a berserk first sees soemthing. Because no time at all has passed, the perception the berserk has of that thing, whatever it is, is flawless. There are no errors, no misconceptions, no mistakes made from expectations, assumptions, distractions. Because not enough time has passed for subconscious association, much less subconscious thought, the berserk is in a unitary state with whatever it is he or she is seeing, for that one moment. Action taken reflexively (NOT deliberately) in response to a dagaz moment will be spot on, accurate, perfect, flawless. The ability to successfully respond to dagaz moments is the key for all berserk techniques. Throwing small rocks from a great distance at very small targets is a good way to develop this ability, if the berserk does it by not looking at the target at all and then making looking and throwing one single, seamless action.
A way to increase the maximum amount of wod the berserk can raise is through practices such as rock throwing. By throwing a heavy rock the berserk can learn those things, both physical movements and mental/spiritual techniques that call out the most wod. Such practices also provide the berserk with an easy method of measuring his or her progress. The standing broad jump is another good way of doing the same thing. And obviously punching/striking exercises are good for this as well.
Developing the sense and control of psychetachia can be done with any number of exercises. One good one is to hang coins from threads or twine from a ceiling and, standing in the middle of them, seek to keep them all in motion by striking them with finger tip or knife point, never allowing them to strike each other or the berserk. This can also be done outside with posts driven into the ground, standing only upon the posts. Another good exercise for psychetachia is in throwing a small rock and then running to catch it before it hits the ground.
Another thing the berserk must practice is a thing called in other martial arts traditions "eagle vision". The berserker martial artist must cultivate a broad vision, focusing on nothing, aware of everything. This allows for use of the peripheral vision (because those fainter signals are not being drowned out by conscious focus of vision, a much "louder" mental process). This allows the berserk a much broader field of vision.
Another thing the berserk must learn is that ALL motion should be from the waist. The waist is the largest, most powerful joint in the body, a fact underappreciated by many fighters. Most fighters throw punches from the arms and shoulders, an inherently MUCH weaker form of strike. And worse, compounding their error, many of these martial artists then seek to develop huge muscles to increase the power of their strikes, killing their speed. Any strike must originate from the waist, and the striking limb must be whipped around by it. This is true power.
There must be no wasted movements of any sort in each and every move the berserker makes, even those that are neither attack nor defense. The berserk must train relentlessly to eliminate all that is unnecessary.
Another sort of attack used in the gangr is one that is especially effective against non-berserks because non-berserks, unable to do such things naturally unless they are body-builders, tend not to have a defense against it. This is simply using one's natural high resistance to pain and damage to weather a few blows from the foe in order to get inside his or her guard. Then, using his or her elevated strength the berserk simply picks up the foe and throws him. The opponent, upon landing, will likely not be on his feet and will therefore be vulnerable to kicking and stomping, and will be unlikely to rise again. Additionally this is an excellent move to use when fighting multiple opponents, for one opponent can be thrown into others, potentially taking down many at once. And also it does lend the berserk a aura of awe and fear, and can readily demoralize the enemy.
There is another sort of practice the berserk must develop as well if he or she is ever to reach his or her full potential, both strength-wise and spirit-wise. And this is the art of healing. During the unitary state both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are simultaneously active, working in most unusual synergy. The sympathetic system provides the berserk with power, and the parasympathetic system activates the berserks natural healing abilities, boosting the immune system, speeding up the rate of damage repair, and relaxing stressed and tense muscles. In the gangr the parasympathetic system can draw on the mad power of the sympathetic system, greatly speeding up the healing process. This will make the berserk much more resistant to damage. The berserk can become immune to shock and concussion, and can even become able to be cut without bleeding, by contracting veins and capillaries closed. (This is responsible for ancient stories of berserks that credited them with the power to blunt sharp weapons with their gaze.) And the ability to instantaneously relax muscles increases the berserk's effective power output, allowing him or her to make strikes and throws that are so strong the berserk's body becomes a crippled mass of knotted muscles, which normally would end a fight, but which in the berserk's case suddenly smooth out and relax as if the berserk had been resting for days. It is difficult to describe how to develop conscious control of such elevated healing, as it is an entirely internal process. But practicing the other exercises should allow the berserk plenty of opportunities.
Lastly, aside from the issue of wod management, the greatest problem the berserk faces with the gangr is heat-related. The gangr generates ENORMOUS amounts of internal heat. This can be quite a problem in battle. While berserks can be capable of shrugging off a state of heat stroke that would kill a non-berserk, even this high tolerance can be rapidly exceeded. This I feel is the real reason berserks fought without armor (or even clothes in many cases), the need to dump much more heat faster than other fighters. This problem is another reason to cultivate movements with no wasted energy.Somafera as Martial Art
This is the web site of Rillway Combatives Academy. (Named for the place where we first met in person, and first fought each other.) We are a school for teaching the martial art called "berserkergang". We are not a traditional school, for the original tradition of this martial art died out centuries ago. Those of us who practice it now have reconstructed it through a combination of research and experimentation. We have no teachers and no students (except by special and private arrangement between two individuals). This is partly because we are all new enough at this that we cannot any of us really set ourselves up above the others as being teachers. And it is partly because of our philosophy. We tend to think that most traditional martial arts place far too much emphasis on teachers, and far too little on learning. It is too easy for fools and charlatans to set themselves up as teachers just to make money, and then because they are teachers, and because of traditions surrounding rank in the MA world, they never actually have to prove themselves or their techniques. We tend to think that schools that discourage full sparring and encourage memorizing forms by rote encourage bad habits and allow useless techniques to be passed on as valuable lore. We have no ranks or titles. We are a collection of individuals who only act together as we each choose to. We think this is healthier in the long run than the traditional model. Respect is paid most to those who earn respect by their feats, especially in the ring, and by the quality of advice they give. Worth proves itself in time, and this arrangement does not allow fools and charlatans to easily hide behind big words and ranks. We have no belts or degrees. You either fight well or you don't. Why add decorations to that? We learn together, as a collective experiment, and we each pass along whatever we discover. What we learn we put to the test in the ring. Or in real life, as many of us have been or are in the military, in active service.
We have been doing this for a long time over the Internet, and been learning so much from each other, that we have started to formalize our practices. We have purchased some land in Montana, where it's cheap, and have begun building a gymnasium specially designed around the needs of the berserker training style. A place where the more experienced berserks can teach the younger ones, and where the residents and guests will have the opportunity to be put to the test by a variety of different styles and skills, as they will have a chance to fight guests as they come.
The berserkergang is a martial art type of somafera. Somafera is a term we have coined to describe a large number of related practices in different cultures around the world. It is a combination of Greek and Latin translating as "the body wild". It is the art and science of altering the body's physiological state to enhance its functioning in certain ways. The physiological state is simply the state in which the body is functioning: the particular arrangement of hormones, muscle activity, mental focus, neurotransmitters, and so forth. Most people are familiar with the two most common states of physiology: waking and sleeping. Some few are familiar with more unusual physiological states, in which some danger or need brings out unaccustomed strength or dexterity, such as when a car in the other lane suddenly swerves into one's own, or when a mother suddenly becomes able to move a burning car off of her child. But even so, most people assume this particular state of physiology arises purely by accident and/or external forces, and cannot be controlled.
However, there is a long history the world over of practices developed to trigger this sort of change in physiology, and control it. And because these practices mostly developed before the scientific revolution, they are largely described from a personal, subjective (rather than impersonal, objective) point of view. They are described in terms of spirituality, and of effecting a physical change via changing the state of one's spirit. (And this pre-scientific point of view is why the practices are largely ignored in today's world.) Some of these practices are mostly religious in their focus, such as the maenadism of ancient Greece and the isawiyya of the ancient Middle East. Others (the more common varieties) are combat oriented, and are a form of internal martial art, such as the berserkergang of the Norse, the heroic feats of the Celts, and the boxers of the Chinese Boxer Rebellion.
The goal of this section is to explore this phenomenon from the angle of its use as a martial art, which is arguably the most common form it has taken historically. History however is not the context in which the section is presented. It is instead presented as a viable style of martial art, one presently being practiced.
The berserkergang was the practice of a kind of elite viking warrior, called a berserker, or berserk. The meaning of the word berserk seems to have varied from place to place. It sometimes seems to mean "bare of sark," referring to the practice of the berserks of fighting without armor. It also sometimes was used as "bear-shirt," referring possibly to another practice of fighting in an actual bearskin or to the belief that the berserk somehow changed into a bear. Some kinds of berserks (in the first sense of the word) were referred to as "ulfhednar", meaning wolf-coats in the same sense as the second meaning of berserk. There may also have been boar-berserks and cat- (of the large predatory variety) berserks.
Kveldulfr, who was described as a berserk in Egil's Saga, was said to change shape into a wolf. What Egil's Saga has to say about the berserkergang, the frenzied state the berserk fought in, is:
"What people say about shape-changers or those who go into berserk fits is this: that as long as they're in the frenzy they're so strong that nothing is too much for them, but as soon as they're out of it they become much weaker than normal."
The Ynglinga Saga records:
"... his men went without mailcoats, and were as frantic as dogs or wolves; they bit their shields and were as strong as bears or boars; they slew men but neither fire nor iron could hurt them. This is known as 'running berserk'."
The berserkers were described as "Odin's men." They were often described as fighting together in bands of twelve or thirteen, and mention is sometimes made of brotherhoods of berserkers. It seems that the berserkers were practitioners of a mystery (in the old sense of the word) of Odin, an ecstatic religious state that granted them their formidability in battle.
The practice was outlawed about one thousand years ago, when Christian conquerors of that age took the last of the old heathen lands. It seems at that point that it went underground. Just about at the time of its outlawing there appeared a tradition in sport fighting called "trollaukin", meaning "possession by spirits", where the fighter uses prayer and focusing techniques to become possessed by a fearsome spirit (often a troll or devil) to become stronger and more fearsome in combat. The practice survived as a part of sport fighting (though an illegal part) for centuries, as history tells us, before simply dwindling away into nonexistence.
It has been underground or gone for so long now that stories of it are generally taken as folk tales, so there is no easy way to determine just exactly what the practice of the berserkergang actually was. There have been a number of theories advanced over the years by academics, specializing in history, mythology, and even neuroscience. The most popular theories were that it was induced by excessive drinking, by eating the amanita muscaria mushroom, or as a reaction to the pain of Piaget's Disease, but all of these theories have been disproven by modern scientific research. (A documentary on British television has some humorous clips of what those who've had excessive amounts of alcohol and amanita actually look like fighting.) The most well regarded theory currently is that berserkers worked themselves up into an hysterical frenzy through religious or spiritual ritual, thus allowing them to access hysterical strength. The sort of strength that sometimes comes to people when their lives are in danger, or the lives of their loved ones. The strength that brings with it increases in reaction speed and coordination. The sort of strength that is also brought out in some types of insanity and dementia, and in people on PCP.
This makes the berserkergang an internal martial art. An internal martial art is a fairly rare sort of martial art. To understand what it is try understanding first what an external martial art is. An external martial art is the most common type. Examples are karate, taekwondo, regimental broadsword, and shoot fighting. These types of martial arts tend to teach through use of kata, or forms. These are learned patterns of behavior, that are drilled into the student's memory through great repetition over a course of many years. Once enough experience has been had in practicing these patterns of movement they begin to become instinctual. Then in a fight the martial artist will tend to see the opponant's stance and actions in terms of how similar they are to the ones he or she learned responses to from the forms. When they are similar enough the martial artist then can instinctively use a move that has a better than average chance of being effective.
An internal martial art tends to utilize a completely different approach. Examples of internal martial arts are the berserkergang, bagua, tai chi, and some forms of kung fu. These forms tend to concentrate on manipulating the mind and body in certain ways in order to enhance their functioning. Techniques include using meditation to clear the mind, allowing it to react faster, using hyperventilation to raise adrenaline, and using hypnotic techniques to dull the sensation of pain.
To generalize, external martial arts tend to teach by concentrating on taking the right actions for every circumstance, the internal arts tend to teach by concentrating on attributes core to any victory or martial style, like strength and speed. It should be noted that this "internal/external" concept of different styles of martial art is somewhat artificial and not entirely accurate. Many martial arts blend the two of them to some extent or other. Many external styles have internal techniques that are only taught to students after years of practice. It seems Eastern MA styles distinguish between them less than Western styles do.
In recent decades the ancient practice of the berserkergang has been taken up again as a formal practice. In truth this is mostly a reconstruction. It cannot be said to be a direct continuation of the old lines. It is at best a new tradition that is the heir of the old. In recent years especially this has grown, thanks in most part to the Internet. Because of it many people have had access to obscure scientific and historical information right at their fingertips. And more importantly, those of us with an interest have been able to find each other, and compare notes.
There seems to have sprung up several groups over the world more or less simultaneously, starting back in the 80's. We occasionally find signs of each other's presence online (for some reason it is common for those berserks who do make websites to leave no contact information and then to remove the website in a year or two). From those I have spoken to it seems that the stories of other groups are much like the story of the one I belong to, so I shall relate it in brief. It seems that there are people born with a knack for entering the berserker trance, just like there are people born with natural skills in every endeavor from painting to driving race cars. Many of us had wondered over the years just what was going on with us and turned to research online, and discovered tales of people like ourselves in references to the berserkers. Others of us were heathens, meaning we practiced the indigenous religion of Northern Europe, the religion of the viking gods, and so we had a cultural context to put our experiences in, that of the berserkergang. My father explained to me when I was a child about the old legends, and explained that the berserkergang was a matter of a genetic trait that made some people prone to spontaneously accessing the hysterical strength of the insane, and that it ran in our family. We berserks found traces of each other online, and started corresponding. We eventually formed a forum online and compared what we all knew from experience. Each of us brought something different to the table, such as majoring in neuroscience or exercise physiology, practicing the gangr for years, being an experienced meditator, and more. We started developing ideas about just what was going on in both scientific and spiritual terms. (Internal martial arts of every type tend to have a heavy spiritual component, and are often seen in terms of raising and controlling a sort of spiritual energy, such as chi.) I came to talk to almost 200 different berserks from all over the world, over the years. We eventually started meeting every year.
These gatherings are a blast! They form one of the highest points of the year for me. We climb cliffsides without gear, hold spiritual and religious rituals such as the ancient berserks likely practiced, drink into the wee hours of the morning, play sports, hold poetry competitions (there is an ancient viking game that makes poetry into both a competition and a drinking game), shoot bows and guns, give and receive lectures and lessons in everything from the finer points of handling a rifle to meditations designed to call out especially high concentrations of adrenaline. In general we have a nonstop blast. But the central feature is the Shieldbiter's Cup tournament. We stake out a wide section of the field we use, sometimes enclosing trees. Two of the boundaries are ringout lines. Combatants wear mouthpieces and MA half-gloves because it's mandatory, many also wear headgear and a cup. Essentially the only rules are that no attack be deliberately killing or crippling. We have a number of specific examples (fishhooking, eye-gouging, breaking the short ribs, etc). Other than this it is no holds barred, full strength punches and kicks. Forcing an opponent over the ringout line while not crossing yourself makes for an automatic win. This is to force fighters to remain aware of their environments at all times. The trees are for the same reason. It is also to even the odds a bit when it comes to size, for we do not separate weight classes. (Although that might sound unfair the 2007 champion was a middleweight who won the championship bout from a superheavyweight in a half hour match of incredible intensity.) We do not divide the match into rounds. A referee and two bouncers stand by to stop the fight if need be, in case of TKO or one of the fighters getting carried away. We have had an incredible mix of styles and skills. We've had a former Navy SEAL, a current special ops soldier, a kickboxer who was a champion of his dojo (meaning he was picked to defend its honor in challenge matches from other dojos), a former HS wrestler with intensive MMA training, and many others. Myself, I have little classical training but have some streetfighting experience and a lot of advanced meditative techniques.
So it has been decided recently that we had enough good core information on the martial practices that it was worth getting it all down into one place, for easy reference. And as I seem to be the one with enough free time to write all these web sites I was elected to write a site on the use of the berserkergang as a martial art. And therefore I should give my references as a fighter and a scholar of the berserkergang. I am an ulfhedinn style berserker. I am the 2006 and 2008 winner of Shieldbiter's Cup. I have defeated or fought to a draw every opponent in several sword tournaments in the Broadsword League. I have defeated the masters of two sword academies in duels. I have won my streetfights more often than I have lost them. I have studied the berserkergang for years in a scholarly sense and written extensively on it from religious, spiritual, and scientific points of view.
A word or two must be said about learning the art of the berserkergang. Most of its practitioners seem at least nowadays (though ancient stories hint that it was the same then) to be people who were born prone to entering the berserk trance spontaneously. We've known a few people who have not been born with such predispositions try to learn the techniques. They either failed or succeeded in such a way that they stopped wanting to try, describing the experience as terrifying, hellish, and utterly alien. (People born prone to spontaneously experiencing it tend to find it incredibly fun, a real blast.) Perhaps other people who are not naturals could learn. But we so far don't know of any that have. Though other sorts of internal martial arts do things similar to what we do and manage to teach most people who want to learn, the reliance upon internal techniques is not usually so pronounced in those arts as in the berserkergang. The berserkergang is essentially shamanism as a martial art.
It should be noted that though we use the term "berserkergang" for this sort of martial practice, in truth that word was traditionally only used for this style of fighter in Northern Europe. But this style of martial art is actually found all over the world. Certain Celtic heroes and warriors fought in a frenzy called the warp spasm or riastradh. The Dacians, ancestors of the Slavs, had Wolf Warriors who fought in this style. The practice is found amongst the Leopard Men and possibly the Zulus in Africa. It was used in China during the Boxer Rebellion, when the Spirit Boxers led a revolution. This sort of practice also had variants that weren't for fighting at all and were instead for religious or spiritual purposes, or healing, or something else. Collectively these types of practice are called "somafera". But we usually call the martial sort of somafera "the berserkergang", no matter what the actual culture involved is. (We needed some term everyone recognized.)
The berserker style relies heavily on entering a meditative or hypnotic trance, and causing the adrenal glands to dump something like their full contents into the blood stream. (And a lot of other things besides, but that's getting rather technical.) This combination of things makes the perception of the berserk alter heavily, until it is in some regards more like a dream state than a waking one. The berserker trance makes the forebrain, the most "human" part of the brain, shut off. It increases the dominance of the hindbrain, the animal brain. The effect all this has on us is almost universally to have the experience of becoming something other than human, usually a predatory animal like a wolf. This effect of the trance is so universal that it is found in almost every culture that has these practices. Most of the ancient traditions believed that the berserker changed, spiritually, into an animal, or became possessed by an animal spirit. Myself, I see no real contradiction between spiritual and scientific explanations. In my view they each address different aspects of the experience. It matters little to me what is "really" going on, whether there is a "real" spiritual component to the experience or not. I have the experience of becoming a wolf in the berserker trance, and that is all that matters to me. (Reality is perception, and it is the experiences and relationships we have that matter most.) I know others who define themselves in purely spiritual terms, and still others who practice this from a purely scientific and materialistic viewpoint.
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Once the stage of learning the basic skills is past it is time to get down to the nuts and bolts of training the specific berserker abilities. The primary manner we do this in tends to be in the Celtic style. Or at least a Celtic style. A Celtic style member of our forum made the suggestion that the Celtic warriors who practiced the riastradh likely used what they called cles to train in that style. "Cles" means "feats". These feats were things like jumping great distances, cutting the buttons off a man's shirt with a sword without cutting the man, lifting enormous weights, balancing on tightropes, etc. He thought that such feats required something special on the part of their practitioners to perform correctly, so they would encourage traits of the gangr to come out. This fit with the natural inclinations in training that many of us had, so we tend to train in our school of the berserkergang by practicing various feats. The information on training below is presented in the form of feats specifically designed to call out different aspects of the gangr, arranged by type. Going berserk through whatever means you have developed first and then attempting a feat is an excellent means of increasing your skills at different aspects of the berserkergang. This will tend to make you a better fighter.
Whatever it is you do to train, it is important to remember that strength is a skill, not just an inherent attribute. That means that how you practice is of great importance for gaining strength. And this means that it is important not to practice your failures. Alwayss back off just BEFORE muscle failure. (1 rep before.) Going past muscle failure, to the point where your form goes to hell and your moves are sloppy just trains your nervous system and muscles to coordinate poorly. Weakly. Only practice as long as you can perform well. There is value in pushing yourself, shattering all your limits, and finding a way to break through to a new level of strength. But this does not need to be done often. No more than once a month.
This one is simple. Find a large rock. At least 50 pounds. Many of us who have done this use 100 or even 150 pounds. Lift it up. Throw it. This will teach you to raise and focus your wod in the best way to boost your strength. It will teach you to sharply spike your wod for long enough for one incredible burst of wod and conserve it at other times. (The rest makes the spike possible.) It will teach you to hold high levels of wod ready without using them, which is not easy to do, but necessary if you are going to build up enough to really increase your strength. This feat makes for a good way to measure your progress and the results of your experiments with techniques, as you can compare the lengths you throw the rock each time you try something different.
Run for great distances, preferably with weighted clothing on. Don't just jog but periodically sprint. (And when you stop sprinting and go back to jogging, do not slack up on speed any compared to what you were doing before the sprint.) This interval training builds up great endurance of the sort fighters need. It also teaches you to manage your wod, so that you can both use a lot of it and hold a lot of it in reserve so you can keep going. It teaches you to constantly summon up more on the fly, while doing other things.
Stand on your hands and do pushups. This forces you to lift your entire bodyweight with just your arms. It forces you to raise and control a lot of wod for purposes of strength. It particularly will force you to develop your core muscles, which are key to any martial artist's success.
Jump for maximum distance from a standing start.
One of the ways that a berserk increases his or her strength is by learning to increase the effectiveness and speed of his or her body's natural healing capacities. While most berserks tend to heal rapidly indeed (such as cuts that should take weeks healing in days) there are somethings that can be done in the immediacy of combat with healing that can directly affect a berserker's strength. One is pain tolerance. Learning to increase this can allow you to strike harder, as if you feel little to no pain when you hit then you can use more of your strength to hit harder. (This does, of course, increase the likelihood that you'll injure yourself and not feel it, possibly until it's too late to prevent it from becoming a much worse injury.) The other major effect it can have on strength is through relaxation. If the berserk can amplify his or her ability to quickly relax muscles, then he or she can throw a great weight, or a hard punch, with so much force that his or her muscles become rock-hard immoble knots of agony and then instantly cause them to smooth out and relax like they hadn't been used in days. This too allows much more of the berserk's inherent strength to be used. Most people do not use anything like the full strength they are capable of physically, even when they feel like they are. I have heard exercise physiologists say that even advanced athletes rarely use more than 20% of their true strength. This is where the berserker's enhanced strength comes from: learning to tap into the birthright we all have. The trick of relaxing the muscles is, of course, also quite dangerous, and prone to causing serious injury.
Learning to access these healing systems deliberately is a bit tricky. Most languages weren't really built to describe things like this. It's a lot like learning to wiggle your ears. It can be done, but no one can really tell you how. But the key to it, as with so many other berserker abilities, is carefully applied stress. Push yourself to your limits, physically. And then try to go just a LITTLE farther. When you hurt too much, when your muscles are seized up, then lift that rock one more time. It takes the right sort of emotions, the right sort of will. It requires true commitment to growing to spark the combination of feelings and thoughts that will bring these things out. Practice, though, should eventually show you how to squeeze out that extra bit of strength by healing yourself in the right way. Note: trying to push yourself TOO far in this manner is simply stupid. It will likely put you out of commission before you get any benefit out of it at all.
Inner Boiling Feat:
This sounds easy, to the inexperienced ear, but this is actually one of the more difficult feats. It is simply a matter of entering a deep gangr, of summoning up as much wod as possible, and then doing absolutely nothing with it. The gangr is generally a reaction to danger and stress. When there is no external need to spend the wod in strength, the instincts naturally try to drop the wod and exit the altered state, for the berserker trance is highly wearing both physically and mentally. Keeping your wod up (both the state and the energy) despite this tendency to let it run down will teach you eventually all sorts of things about how you work, and will give you much greater control than you ever possessed before. Then when you do need to spend that wod in effort you will have much more of it than ever before, and your strength will be correspondingly greater.
Moving, as any builder of robots knows, is an amazingly complex action. Moving under stress, such as when lifting a weight or throwing a punch, much more so. It would be very easy to apply too much force early on in the move, or not enough later when the arm is slowing to a halt, and end up hyperextending the joint, tearing the muscles, and damaging the bones and ligaments. In order to counteract this problem the human body makes use of complementary muscle pairs. Every motion is a balancing act between the pull of the agonist muscles and the pull of the antagonist muscles. The agonist muscles act to move the way you want. The antagonist muscles fight them just enough to keep the action of the agonist muscles balanced and under control.
If you could shut off or reduce the effect of the antagonist muscles, you would get stronger physically because you would not be fighting against them. You would also, of course, come to be at increased risk of injury, and your coordination would also likely suffer. (In case you haven't figured it out yet, the berserkergang is a risky practice.) And there do seem to be two ways to learn to reduce the activity in these muscles. One is popular amongst some martial artists, and seems to have been pioneered by Pavel Tsatsouline. It is by exercising with dynamic tension. This means pretending to lift weights (with the hands really empty) but tensing the muscles and straining mightily against them. It seems that requiring the antagonist muscles to respond to the brain's directives and turn up their effect when there is no physical stress present also teaches the brain how to reduce their effect when there is physical stress present. The other way is by cultivating an open observing state of mind while in a deep meditative state, moving around, lifting things, hitting things, and feeling how your muscles work, and then learning to just shut the right ones down directly.
Heat and Weight Feat
Wear very heavy clothing and weights on your body. Anything to make action difficult. Then try to run, spar, do jumping jacks, anything. Very quickly your endurance will be exhausted, and you will approach heat exhaustion or heat stroke. This will teach you to use wod to extend your endurance under conditions of heat and fatigue, such as occurs in combat. The risk of heat stroke does, of course, make this a very dangerous feat.
Sink all of your weight as low as possible while crouching on one leg, and stand back up on that leg. This exercise is called a "pistol".
Do one-armed pushups.
Construct a mask that blocks your mouth and nose except for one small breathing tube and then work out. The reduced air can teach you to better manage your wod for endurance, and it also serves as good preparation for fighting at high alititudes.
Hanging Rocks Feat:
Hang a number of decent sized rocks from the ceiling by twine in a circle. Stand within the circle. Start them swinging by striking them with an extended finger or two. Staying within the circle keep them all moving without letting them get tangled up in each other or striking you. Eye protection is probably a good idea. Doing this outdoors while standing on monkey poles (posts of different heights driven into the ground) adds another dimension to the demands placed on your attention and reaction speed.
Throw a rock away from you and run fast enough to catch it. At the start the rock will have to be thrown nearly straight up. Progress in this feat is measured by how far down towards the horizontal you can bring it.
Have an assistant throw spear-like lengths of wood at you, and bat them aside as they approach. An actual spear tip is not necessary, or wise. As an alternative, throw them up in the air yourself and stand under them. Eye protection is probably wise.
While standing on monkey poles (posts of different heights driven into the ground) have assistants throw balls, rocks, or other such items at you, and try to avoid getting hit. This will require incredible focus and meditative openness, and great reaction speed as well as quickness of movement.
Stand just out of arm's reach of an assistant. Keep as still as possible. The moment the thought occurs to move forward and strike (or touch) then act upon it, so that thought and action are one. The assistant should try to dodge or block. If the act is truly without any prior intention then the assistant will not see it coming, and the movement will be too fast to avoid or block.
Hang one or more rocks from the ceiling by twine. Set them swinging. Blindfold yourself. Standing amongst them, avoid getting hit by them, and keep them swinging by hitting them. On one level this feat helps the martial artist by training his or her other senses, such as hearing the creaking of the twine as the rocks swing, and feeling tiny changes in air pressure as they move, and making these perceptions substitute for the absent sight. Outside of being blindfolded these skills can then be used again. On another level this feat teaches the berserk to become one with an opponent. If the berserk can learn to build up an instinctual understanding of the complex patterns caused by multiple pendulums of different lengths and weights such that he or she can move amongst them untouched then the berserk can extend that same skill to an enemy in battle, and become able to predict his moves.
Keep your vision unfocused, like you are looking at nothing at all, or are staring off into the infinite distance. Then move about while keeping the vision unfocused. Doing things that make a lot of demands on the attention, like the hanging rocks feat, will be perfect for this. The object of this feat is to develop what martial artists call "eagle vision". In this state you pay no more attention to things in front of you than anywhere else, and so become able to see better in the peripheral vision. Because you aren't focused on anything your mind is freer of attachments. It becomes less blind. (Focus is, after all, a matter of paying so much attention to one thing that you pay less to others.) It is not very easily distracted, or fooled. It notices everything around it in much greater detail. Any serious fighter of any sort must learn to attain this state of vision.
The name for this one is a little metaphorical. It arises out of a name we chose for the default unitary state. We've had quite a difficult time deciding on terminology for the things we learned. Each of us, especially back in the beginning when we were looking around for names all the time, came from a different tradition of martial art, religion, and spirituality. We each had a different set of words we used. We needed terms everyone could agree on, that everyone could recognize and understand. Sometimes we used terms from one specific tradition or another (like "berserkergang" and "chi"). Sometimes we feared that being too free with using terms without necessarily understanding the whole traditional context they were defined in was a bad thing, and so we also made up terms. To describe the default unitary state we chose a term from the runes, a native European alphabet and system of spiritual development. "Dagaz" means "twilight", the moment one thing becomes another. So we called the default unitary state a "dagaz moment".
A default unitary state occurs the moment you first see something. Because no time at all has passed, the perception you have of that thing, whatever it is, is flawless. There are no errors, no misconceptions, no mistakes made from expectations, assumptions, distractions. Because not enough time has passed for subconscious association, much less conscious thought, you are in a sort of default unitary state with whatever it is you are seeing, for that one moment. Action taken reflexively (NOT deliberately) in response to a dagaz moment will be spot on, accurate, perfect, flawless. The ability to successfully respond to dagaz moments is the key for many berserker techniques. Throwing small rocks from a great distance at very small targets is a good way to develop this ability, if the berserk does it by not looking at the target at all and then making looking and throwing one single, seamless action. Another way to practice this talent is by means of stop cutting, where you take a knife or a sword (a sword is better) and swing it at a target full strength, stopping a hair's breadth away from the target. This does not mean pulling back on the cut. The cut is full strength, it just stops naturally at that distance. The best way to do this reliably is to be responding to seeing the target in a dagaz moment. Note: do not practice this feat this way with anyone nearby, as the sword or knife can slip out of your hand accidentally.
Blindfold yourself and try to walk around an unfamiliar area using meditation/elevation to sharpen your other senses enough to help. Try to track someone down through different streets using only your sense of smell. Anything that pushes you to develop better senses of any sort qualifies.
One of the ways that a berserker gains the knowledge of what the right action to take is by bringing to bear a great focus of mind. And one of the best ways of developing great focus is by forcing the mind to function efficiently while being pulled in different directions at the same time. Anything that can do this will be a valuable training technique for a berserker. Examples include doing math in the head while balancing on a pole and getting hit with a stick, or having to dodge rocks being thrown at you, and possibly while at the same time paying enough attention to a movie playing in the background that you can discuss its philosophy later.
Besides the Feats
Any berserker needs to have a thorough grounding in the basics of any style of fighting. How to throw a solid punch, for instance, and how to kick properly. The right way to stand, and the right way to move. Common takedowns, and takedown defenses. A few submission holds. The best way to pick up these basics is to take a few classes in boxing, wrestling, karate, or taekwondo. Not trying to follow these fighting styles, but learning enough from them to get a firm hold on these basic things that any fighter needs to know.
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Generally the feet should be about shoulder width apart. The legs should be slightly bent, the shoulders rounded, and the fighter should stand on the balls of the feet. The stance should be side on, with either the right or left arm forward. There are two schools of thought as to which is most appropriate. One says that, if you are right handed, then you should have your left hand forward. As the left hand is weaker anyways, then you might as well use it just for jabs, which are speed punches, and do not need to be terribly effective. The right hand is then the one in the position for delivering the power shots and as it is naturally the stronger hand, these will be the most powerful punches you are physically capable of. The other way of thinking would have your right hand forward, to increase the effectiveness of your jabs, and to give your weaker left hand more of a boost by giving it further to accelerate. In truth no method is actually superior, it is simply a stylistic difference.
There are a variety of different punches that can be used. Any fighter should at least know the following:
Jab: The lead hand snaps out a quick punch that is meant for speed rather than power. It simply goes as straight as possible over the shortest distance to the target. It is meant to harass the opponent. It is also used to keep them mentally off balance, and thinking more of defending themselves than attacking you. It is also a good way of judging the distance between you and your opponent, a thing that sight alone is not always good at. A quick step is usually taken with the jab, with the punch landing before the foot. This adds a lot more momentum to the punch
Rear Straight: There are a variety of ways of throwing a rear straight, each with their own proponents. Some have the punch begin by driving hard off the rear leg, other begin with a whipping motion of the waist combined with a slightly less powerful leg drive and snap. Any way you begin it (though the true strength of it does come from the motion of the body rather than the arm) the rear arm snaps out in a straight line to its target. The arm itself should not be extended too far. It is the body that moves the most. This is one of the most powerful punches. It is slower than a jab, and easier to evade, but it is the punch that does all the damage. It is usually used in combination with jabs, with a jab distracting the opponent and giving cover for a rear straight to sneak in.
Shovel Hook: The arms are bent, the fists are next to the chest, the elbows are on the hips. This punch is used in the clinch, when there is not any room to move the arms. The power comes from driving upwards with the feet, with the hip on the opposite side of the body being the one that snaps up. This sort of punch is deceptive: it is MUCH more powerful than you would think it could be, and in the clinch it can make the difference between victory and defeat.
These are some specialty punches that are valuable additions to any fighter's arsenal:
Overhand Hook: Much like a rear straight, but instead of coming in straight the power hand flies slightly wide, over the arm of the opponent, and hooks back in to connect. While this is a power punch it is a little less powerful than a rear straight. Its function is to evade the guard of your opponent.
Baseball Bat: This is a really nasty trick of a punch. It was developed by Champ Thomas, a legendary bareknuckle boxer who continued fighting well into old age. (His books are well worth the trouble it takes to find them.) It begins with a fakeout. You throw a hook that deliberately misses, coming up short of the target, and let your body drop low, like you've gone off balance. Most fighters, thinking they see an opportunity, will close in to take advantage of your "weakness". But instead of being off balance you have actually just wound yourself up for the strongest punch you could possibly throw. When your opponent is at the right distance, suddenly explode back upwards, uncoiling your body like a spring, letting it whip the hand you'd "missed" with at an unholy speed. Hit the opponent not with the knuckles but with the edge of the hand, where all that power will be concentrated into a smaller area. This punch, if it lands, is capable of doing extreme damage, and can knock an opponent out easily.
Haymaker: This is what every idiot with no training naturally throws, especially those who watched too may old Westerns. The arm is flung wide and loops back in to the opponent. The body is usually turning too. This punch is pretty useless, as it can be seen coming from a mile away. However, as it is pretty strong it can serve to make the opponent back away and give you a moment to catch your breath or improve your stance.
Any fighter also needs to know how to make a fist. Fingers curled tight, thumb on the outside. Most people will try to hit squarely with the fist, or on the first two knuckles. This is a mistake. The fingers do not lie flat together, and hitting on those two knuckes will break fingers. The proper place to hit is with the last three, which do lie flat together. Additionally, the wrist should be turned slightly inwards towards the other fist and towards the inside of your wrist. While feeling a little awkward, it actually lines the bones up straight and allows for MUCH more of your power to be transferred effectively to your opponent.
In general, when throwing a punch, the muscles should all be relaxed, and the body loose and limber. This allows for great speed to be built up. At the moment of impact the whole body should tense up, delivering maximum power. The combination of speed and tense muscle power makes for the strongest hits possible. Throwing all punches under high tension is a waste of energy, and robs the punches of so much speed they become very weak.
It is very important to learn to cover yourself when punching. Throwing a punch weakens your guard, and leaves you vulnerable to counterpunching. When you throw one, hunch up your other shoulder and tuck your head into it. Also, ALWAYSS immediately return a thrown fist to the guard. NEVER leave it just hanging out there after a punch. That will get you hurt, badly. Train relentlessly until these two things are instinctual.
A thing or two on knocking an opponent out should be understood as well. One punch knockouts are mostly a myth. And even when they do happen they are usually either an accident or due to some freak of genetics which allow for inhumanly strong punches. Most of the time a knockout has to be set up. One punch to the head misaligns the neck and jaw, meaning the head is not well supported. Then the second punch is able to more fully jar the head into unconsciousness. A knockout can also be set up with a body shot, especially to the organs like the liver or kidneys. Damage of this sort takes time to manifest (as much as a minute after the hit landed) but can so sap your opponent's energy as to allow for an easier knockout.
Kicks are an effective weapon for any fighter, but care must be taken with them. High kicking, in general, is a really stupid idea. High kicks usually only work in sport competitions that are based on points and style rather than combat effectiveness. They are too slow, too easy to see coming, and put you WAY off balance, making you easy to take down. Instead, kicking to the legs is best. Kicks are like punches, in that there is a lead kick, fast and weak, and a rear kick, stronger and slower. Purring (short sharp kicks to the shins) can be highly effective at distracting your opponent by pain or crippling a leg. Kicks are to cause damage to the leg muscles, weakening the opponent's legs and slowing them down. They are also used to stop a charge or to make an opponent back off.
There are several defensive guards, each useful for different things.
Classic: Rear fist slightly lower than lead, lead not more than a foot out from the body. Elbows tucked in to the sides, but not tight. This is a good all-around stance. It conserves energy by not holding the arms too far out. It covers all targets pretty well. The head and upper body are warded by the fists and upper arms, the lower body is protected by the elbows, dropping the body slightly to cover low shots with them. This stance allows for close in fighting.
Irish: Like the Notre Dame mascot, the arms are held very far away from the body. Although it looks funny it allows for VERY fast punches to be thrown. Because the fists are so close to the opponent, they can be very hard to see in time to do anything about them. The disadvantages are that the punches are weaker and this stance is very tiring to hold for long.
Stonewall: Developed by Champ Thomas, this is another unusual technique. The front arm is held elbow straight down, held close to the body, fist next to the face. The rear arm is held horizontal at waist level, with the elbow jutting just beyond the edge of the body. That elbow protects the kidneys, and the rear arm protects most low line attacks while the front arm protects most of the high line attacks. This stance just looks bad. It looks very open and invites an opponent to attack, thinking they see an opening, But the opening is in fact an illusion. All parts of the body are very well covered. It looks like effective punches cannot be thrown from it, but this too is an illusion. It has not only deception as an advantage but also the fact that it is very easy to hold this guard indefinitely. The disadvantages are that the lower elbow is vulnerable, and the punches, while powerful, are a little slower. This guard takes a lot of practice to use correctly.
Of course a wise fighter will keep shifting guards, to keep their opponent guessing and unable to set up an attack. But be careful! You are vulnerable when shifting from one guard to another.
Taking an opponent down is an art form in and of itself. It is far too complex to easily sum up. In general you want to move fast, and come in low, and keep your head and neck covered. If you have to move more than a step or two to close with your opponent then you are starting from too far away. Use your momentum to take them down, and try to keep your center of gravity (about two inches below your navel) below your target's center of gravity. You might go down with your target (though remaining standing is the most advantageous), but if you control it, you'll land in the superior position.
There are a great number of submissions that can be used to end a fight once it is on the ground. But a fighter should learn just a few of them and train in them very well. (At least at first.) It is better to have just a few submissions that work well than a whole arsenal of dozens where you are mediocre or worse at all of them.
Strangle: Strangling places pressure more or less directly on the front of the neck. The classic strangle is one or both hands gripping the opponent's throat and squeezing. It is a moderately dangerous submission, in that it can crush the larynx. Some sport competitions disallow them, but any streetfighter should know them. While they can be applied from almost any angle they are easiest to work from the front, or in the mount. This is a very effective submission on fighters who have not trained to resist it (most people) but it is nearly useless on fighters who have trained their neck muscles to be strong and to resist compression.
Smother: Smothering is most effective from the opponent's rear. It is simply placing one (or, better, both) hand over the nose and mouth tightly. If it can be maintained well it can make the opponent pass out. But even where it isn't fully successful it can still slow an opponent down and impair their judgment. This submission is particularly useful where a choke can be successfully or safely applied.
Rear Naked Choke: A choke tends to apply pressure more to the sides of the neck, and can cause unconsciousness by compressing the carotid arteries. It tends to be safer than the strangle. The rear naked choke (RNC) is applied, surprisingly enough, from the rear. One arm (either one) encircles the opponent's neck, with the elbow in front. The hand of that arm grabs either the bicep or the hand of the other arm and squeezes.
Figure Four Armlock: Also called an Americana. It is usually applied from the mount or from side control, but it can be applied, with some effort, from almost any position. One of the opponent's arms is placed on the ground, elbow bent. The palm should be faced upwards, The wrist of that arm is grabbed with the hand opposite to the one you are holding. (In other words if you are applying the lock to your opponent's left arm, grab their left wrist with your right hand. Slip your other arm under their bicep and up through the crook of their arm to grab their wrist. Slide their arm down while cranking their elbow up. The pain is quite intense, and will make many opponents tap out.
Ground and Pound: Applied usually from the mount, ideally the opponent's arms are immobilized by sitting on them. Then it is simply a matter of punching them in the face and head repeatedly until they submit or pass out. As the head is resting on the ground it cannot move to absorb the impact so the punches are much more effective. The opponent will generally try to grab your head or body and pull you close to him, so that you do not have room to swing. Watch for this and do not allow it to happen.
Shirt Strangle: Grab your opponent's shirt and twist it up around your hand. It can be an effective fight ender, though a strong or aware opponent can rip the shirt or slip out of it.
There are three ranges in any fight situation: striking, clinch, and grappling. Any fighter should have some basic familiarity with all three ranges, whatever preferences he or she has. Some strikers, particularly, have a really stupid attitude about range, claiming that they don't need to train in the clinch or on the ground because they "won't let" any enemy take them to the ground. (Or clinch.) A skilled enemy, especially a determined one (or even a stupid one who lacks a sense of self preservation) will eventually find a way of closing the distance. The history of Mixed Martial Arts shows that any fighter, no matter how skilled at striking, needs to be at home on the ground and in the clinch.
There are several positions on the ground.
Guard: On your back, with the opponent between your legs. This is a very superior position. Your legs control your opponent, and prevent them from doing a lot of harmful things to you. As you are on your back and resting you are regaining strength while your opponent is spending theirs trying into get out of it or submit you. An ignorant opponent may even think he has you in the superior position and allow you to maintain it. It is important to note that you’re ankles must be locked together for this to work properly. It is also important to be aware of this when your opponent is taking you down. Do not let him get you in the guard! It is also important to train in ways to get out of it once in it, also called "passing the guard".
Front Mount: Opponent on their back, you on top straddling them, outside their legs. A superior position where you control your opponent and are in a position to do all kinds of nasty things to them.
Side Mount: Also called side control. Your body is at 90 degrees to your opponent's body, and you are on top. A good position, though not as good as front mount.
North/South: Also called reverse mount. You are on top of your opponent facing the opposite direction. You have some good opportunities in this position, but you are also rather vulnerable in some ways.
Each of these mounts should be trained in; how to apply them, what to do in them, and how to get out of them if your opponent has them on you.
There are two schools of thought on basic strategy on the ground. One has it that you try to get a good position and keep it no matter what. The other has you constantly moving and always willing to trade even a good position for one that might be better. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. The second has greater risks, but also greater potential gains. The first is more conservative but surer.
In addition to these fighting basics there are several specialized techniques unique to the berserker style of combat.
Bullrush: The berserker raises as much wod as possible while not spending any of it in action or even expression (like yelling, growling). Once the wod is at the maximum possible, let it affect you physically. With the sudden spike in wod rush in and either take your opponent down or start throwing punches considerably more powerful than anything you have so far.
This technique works in two ways. One is that by suddenly having much more strength than your opponent suspects you have a decent chance of catching them by surprise and overwhelming them. The other involves standing out of distance, where neither you’re attacks nor your opponent's can reach each other. Most opponents will drop their guard a little, to conserve energy and because the pressure is off. The wod spike will make you capable of moving much faster and getting back in distance faster than the opponent can recover, thus getting in past their guard.
Baritus: One of the few techniques we are pretty sure was used by the ancients. It is the berserker version of kiai jutsu. In a deeply wodful state you start yelling, screaming, and howling, really expressing your inner animal. This is best done either before a fight, to demoralize your opponent or, more subtly, during the fight at an opportune moment. Observe your opponent carefully. At a moment when they look tired, haggard, unaware, distracted, at low energy, or otherwise vulnerable, give a rapid bestial utterance. Immediately rush in and attack. The baritus should have your opponent startled, scared, or taken aback for a moment, giving you the chance to strike freely.
Wide Awareness: Raise wod. Get a good start on it and then pull back, not stopping the energy but instead stopping the techniques, the acts and thoughts meant to raise the energy. Instead allow yourself to slip into a deeper meditative state or trance. Regulate your breathing to a calmer state. This combination, if done correctly, will have some special benefits.
Your senses will tend to sharpen. Your mind will be both clear and powerful. You will suddenly see much more clearly what your opponent is likely to do next. You will respond much more quickly. Your strength will increase a little but your overall judgment and competence will increase much more. It is best to switch to this after using a lot of strength boosting wod for a while, as repeated strength spiking will tend to cause bad coordination and bad judgment.
Dagaz Strike: Another of the ancients' techniques. This rests upon the dagaz moment feat. Make seeing a thing and moving in response to it one. This triggers the default unitary state and that reflexive move will be perfect. It is useful for things like knocking aside spears and arrows coming at you (what the ancients used it for), or for stopping a surprise strike of your opponent's.
Reset: Most people have an "energy utilization curve" unlike that of a berserk. The more they use, the more tired they get. The slower they get. The weaker they get. So they will likely be unused to the fact that a berserk, if they have time to focus, can always return to a "fresh" state. Getting off a full elevation ritual can allow you to fight as fresh as you did at the start of the fight. You do rapidly run out of energy again, and end up in an even worse situation. But no matter how far down you go you can always reset to fresh at least for a moment. This can take an opponent seriously by surprise.
Stored Meditation: This is a tricky one, but quite worth practicing. The trick is, before a fight, to engage in deep meditations for raising wod, or deepening trance, or doing one of the other techniques. But leave out one key element, like a mantra. The trick is to do almost all of it without experiencing the result in any way at all. Then, at need, (such as in a fight) speak the mantra that was missing. If the memory of the incomplete rite is fresh enough then the missing piece will bring it ALL back at once, with the effect that in the space it took to speak a mantra you get the benefit of a long and involved ritual.
Wolf Leap: Also called Cat Leap, this is one of the techniques likely practiced by the ancient Celtic berserkers. It is simply a wod-fueled leap either out of range to get rapidly away from an attack you cannot handle, or to get inside your opponent's guard to make a surprise attack. This is a very dangerous technique! Once you have left the ground you cannot change where you are going. If your opponent reacts in time they can set you up for a serious attack that you can do nothing about.
Throw: This is a very simple technique. Its advantage lies in the fact that most people won't be prepared for it, as it is a thing most people cannot do easily. Raise your wod very high, get into the clinch with your opponent, pick them up, and throw them. They might take you down with them, which isn't necessarily bad, but you might also manage to throw them onto the ground while remaining on your feet, which is just about the best position to be in in a fight.
Warfetter: The rate of neural processing and enhanced strength of the deepest gangr is the foundation for the gangr's most advanced technique, the warfetter. (This is, seemingly, the ultimate technique of the ancient berserks.) Truly difficult to correctly perform, it is capable of defeating even an opponent superior in all other respects to the berserk. It should be used to take on an opponent who has resisted or is capable of resisting the berserk's other methods, but it should generally not be attempted at the beginning of a fight. For one thing this is because it takes no small amount of time to raise the wod high enough to perform it and it also takes time to observe the opponent well enough to enable it. For another thing this is because the warfetter takes so much energy it will completely drain the berserk, leaving him or her very vulnerable to attack if it fails, so it should be saved as a last resort. The warfetter is the expansion of the unitary state the berserk is in to encompass the opponent as well as the berserk's own self and animal-fetch. Once the berserk has observed the opponent for enough time (which varies greatly depending on circumstances) and has observed the range of strength, speed, and techniques available to that opponent, then the understanding resulting from that observation can become the object of ritual focus that creates the unitary state. (The object of ritual focus is the visualization, concept, mantra, or such thing used to deafferent the OAA, or Orientation Association Area, triggering the unitary state.) If this unitary state is formed in the correct way then it will coincide with a powerful triggering of the fight-or-flight response. This brings about a sudden massive increase in wod, supplementing the already high levels the berserk should have in reserve for this technique. The result of this is that suddenly the berserk is capable of knowing *exactly* what the opponent will do in response to a wide range of attacks. Once this occurs the berserk knows, instantly, what his opponent will do next in any circumstance. This anticipation allows him to forestall any motion the enemy makes, even before he begins it. The enemy's motions are stopped at the very "p" of "punch", the very "e" of "evade". Combined with the temporary extraordinary speed (even higher than normally possible for a berserk) the effect is that the berserk can move freely while his opponent seems to stand still, frozen, bound (hence the name). I have used this technique only a few times in all the years I have been fighting. It is that difficult. My opponents said that it looked from their point of view like I suddenly moved so fast I became a blur, striking home several times before they could even raise a defense against the first blow.
I have only been able to use the warfetter against non berserker opponents. It seems that the berserker ability to control their sense of time via psychetachia makes this technique, difficult in the best of times, nearly impossible. After all, to make your own sense of time run that much faster than someone who is already on fast internal time is MUCH more difficult.
Physical Strength Boosters:
There are several techniques useful for increasing your physical strength that can be used by anyone, not just berserks. These techniques are championed by Pavel Tsatsouline, a strength trainer formerly of the Soviet Spetznaz. He describes strength as not just an inborn attribute but as a skill. Learning to use your body correctly will teach it to use more of its strength.
One of the keys to this is intra-abdominal pressure. This does NOT mean sucking in the stomach. That disconnects several muscles that are needed for support. It means tensing up the muscles and feeling the abdomen "settle in" over the waist. With internal pressure built up this way physical strength can increase dramatically. (An explanation of why high internal pressure, and the other tricks here, increase strength is interesting but beyond the scope of this work.)
Another simple one is tightening the perineal muscle, particularly at the moment of exertion.
Yet another is muscle recruitment. If, when performing some physical action, you also tense the muscles that are near the ones you are using, or that mirror it (such as tensing the left arm when punching with the right) then your strength in the muscles being used will increase noticably.
Hyperventilation tends to raise wod. Breathing in lightly and out explosively tends to enhance physical strength through wod while breathing out longer than breathing in tends to enhance the senses and awareness, and increase balance and judgment.
Flexing large groups of muscles will also raise wod, so leaping and pacing work well, as well as flexing the arms rhythmically.
Bending over backwards, forming the back into a C shape is anotherr excellent wod trigger. It is harmless physically, but the brain, sensing the tension in the spine, fears that it is about to break and so dumps adrenaline into the bloodstream in its panic.
Tossing the head about, or head banging, also works well, for a similar reason.
Clenching and baring the teeth also seems to work well at raising wod. There is a theory about why this is so, based on triggering ancient instincts tied to the muscles being worked.
Growling, howling, and screaming all raise wod very effectively.
Any sort of pain will also raise wod, such as biting the lips, yanking on the beard or hair, or twisting joints and muscles.
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There are a number of other issues that are important for any berserker to know.
The first is wod management. It is not enough to know how to raise wod ritually enough to berserk. While this can get you into a good state for a fight, that approach alone is seriously limited. You need to become so skilled at raising wod that you can do it on the fly, at the drop of a hat. You need to be able to do it nearly instantly, and with the bulk of your attention directed elsewhere. Like during a fight. You need to be able to raise more wod while punching, grappling, getting hit, gasping for breath, feeling pain. This means getting so skilled at wod raising that it takes no more than a brief effort of will and uttering a mantra, for instance. And this takes much practice.
Also, never expend all your wod at once. This will leave you very weak and disoriented, slow, and possessed of bad judgment. It will make it very hard to recover, even with another wod raising ritual. It might also end the gangr entirely, and make you unable to attain it again for some time. Instead it is best to limit your expenditures to 90-95% of your wod, will accomplish almost everything 100% will, keeping the rest in reserve to keep you going afterwards, and to allow you to raise more.
Burnt wod is another problem to be aware of. Once you have been using wod for enough time, or have been concentrating too long on one thing, your wod will "burn". This means you start getting bad coordination, shakes, poor judgment, and you may start hallucinating. There is a distinct "burnt" feeling to the mind. The key to dealing with this is to learn to raise and use just as much as you need and not more. It lays in recognizing the signs of burnt wod coming on. And it also lies in alternating fiery, vigorous wod with calmer wod that sharpens the senses and heightens the awareness.
After any gangr, especially the deep ones, comes the post-gangr fatigue. It is generally proportional in length and intensity to the length and intensity of the gangr. In it the berserker is far weaker than normal, and usually in great pain. Depression and a short temper are common features. Eating foods rich in serotonin and high in calories are recommended. (Like potatoes, or chocolate.)
Lastly, aside from the issue of wod management, the greatest problem the berserk faces with the gangr is heat-related. The gangr generates ENORMOUS amounts of internal heat. This can be quite a problem in battle. While berserks can be capable of shrugging off a state of heat stroke that would kill a non-berserk, even this high tolerance can be rapidly exceeded. This I feel is the real reason berserks fought without armor (or even clothes in many cases), the need to dump much more heat faster than other fighters. This problem is another reason to cultivate movements with no wasted energy.
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There are several different styles of berserker practice. This is true both of the ancient ways and the modern. It seems that while different berserks tend to have the experience of becoming different animals or spirits members of each type tend to have certain things in common with each other.
An ulfhedinn (that's the singular) is a berserk who experiences becoming a wolf in the berserker trance. Or becomes possessed by a wolf spirit. Or whose internal nature is partially that of a wolf. Or who hallucinates becoming a wolf. Or however you want to look at it. Ulfhedinn means "wolf-coat". Ulfhednar tend to be very active, and move about constantly, often shifting guard and stance, constantly altering them, circling the opponent, bobbing the head. They tend to be very intellectual fighters. Some excel at ring control and precise movements, others utilize deception, tricks, and head games. The constantly moving ulfhedinn is very difficult to hit, because it is not so easy to set up a hit on an opponent who won't keep still and who never uses the same defense for long. Speed is often emphasized in ulfhedinn style, and accuracy. I have fought one ulfhedinn who is impossible to get a square hit on. Though much smaller than me he is so fast and such a great judge of distance that no matter how hard I hit I find that he has slipped his head a little bit, or twisted his body, so that the main force of the blow is lost. Ulfhednar seem to be the most common sort of berserk in modern times.
Bjornsterk means "bear strength". This is the term we use for those berserks who experience becoming a bear in the berserker trance. The historical term for them is "berserkers", because "berserk" didn't just mean "bare of sark" it also meant "bear shirt". But as these similar words were too confusing, as one was a general term and the other a specific one, we changed the specific term. Bjornsterks tend to emphasize strength, and many are grapplers. Fancy footwork or excessive motion doesn't seem to be common in the bjornsterk style. I know one who basically just uses his great resistance to harm and his iron helmet of a skull to walk in a straight line into his opponent's guard, shrug off the shots he takes, and throw his opponent to the ground. Bjornsterks seem to have been the most common type of berserk in ancient times.
Chatti means "cats" in Latin, and was used by Tacitus and other scholars to describe certain barbarian warriors. They may or may not have been berserks, the references aren't clear. It is nonetheless the term some modern berserks have taken to describe those who experience becoming a large predatory cat in the berserker trance. The chatti I've known haven't been very experienced martial artists, and so I find it hard to really describe them. It does seem to be a more intellectual style.
Another modern term, it refers to those berserks who do not experience anything like becoming an animal, who instead just go through a derangement of the senses like a quick trip through madness, and the term itself does refer to insanity. The vanawod fighters I've known seem to emphasize aggression.
This term refers to those who have the experience of becoming possessed by a non-animal spirit, usually a more human one. It comes from the use of the term "horse" in some traditions to describe those people who become possessed by the gods and spirits. Some spirit horses have the experience of becoming possessed by ancient dead heroes, others of being possessed by gods of battle. I have never met any of these types. I have met two who had the experience of becoming demons in the berserker trance. Both fought with great aggression, and seemed to emphasize driving themselves ever deeper into the trance, so that pain tolerance became incredibly high, so that they can get close enough to let the aggression loose. Neither seemed to be that concerned with fancy moves or even defense.
Svipal means "changeable", and this term has been adopted by some modern berserks who have the experience of becoming many different animals or spirits. They seem to fight with the style of whatever animal or spirit they are at the time. This can make them very hard to anticipate, though the experience can be overwhelming and distracting for the svipal berserk.
I have also heard tell of boar, bull, coyote, and other styles, but have never met any.
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The berserkergang has no forms, no "kata". Forms create expectations, but are only really appropriate in a limited number of circumstances. This can lead to counterproductive reflexes and missed opportunities. Instead the berserkergang concentrates on the three basics of all martial art: strength, speed, and right action. And the primary way it does this is through wod.
Wod (pronounced "wode") is a complicated concept for which there is no one exact english word. One one level wod means "fury", and it is an experience of that emotion. Indeed, part of the process of going berserk is by working up this emotion. In part it means "possessed", which of course refers to the experience most berserks have of becoming possessed by some sort of spirit or other. It can refer to a state of being, but it also is form of spiritual energy, analagous to the chinese "chi". Like a fiery chi.
In essence, the act of entering the berserker trance is simply a matter of simultaneously being in a deep meditative state and raising up an enormous amount of wod. Once a certain critical threshold of stress is reached (and it can be any kind of stress: mental, physical, or emotional, though a mixture works best) the berserker enters the berserker trance, which is a type of unitary state.
"Unitary state" is a term from neuroscience that describes an unusual state of physiology. The researchers who studied it described it as a stress response, an evolutionary adaptation that all people have to one degree or another. When stress occurs a person's sympathetic nervous system is aroused. This is the half of the nervous system that is responsible for "fight or flight" matters. When the stress is extreme that half of the nervous system is near overload. Once a certain critical threshold is reached the brain instinctively does some desperate things in an attempt to stop the overload. One is to shut off the forebrain and certain other parts, the only parts of the brain that can be shut off. This not only reduces the overload of the nervous system, but it luckily has some other benefits as well. The forebrain is the part of the brain that describes things, names them, compartmentalizes them, analyzes them. In short, the part of the brain prone to "overthinking". It also shuts off the part that distinguishes what the self is and what the rest of the world is. Once this part of the brain goes offline the person in the unitary state simply perceives everything purely and directly. The person reacts by instinct, which is the fastest sort of reaction and because the "thinking" parts of the brain are shut off, there is less danger of taking the wrong action in response to the outside world, for there is no danger of thinking wrong about something there is no possibility of thinking about at all. The other thing the desperately stressed brain does is awaken the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the other half of the nervous system, the half responsible for healing, resting, relaxing, balancing. Because these things are the opposite of the actions of the sympathetic nervous system (revving up, tensing, focusing, energizing) it is very difficult for the body to do both at once, and so usually when one is active the other is shut down. But in extreme circumstances, such as the stress that triggers the unitary state, the two of them find a way to be active at the same time. This allows the natural healing of the parasympathetic nervous system to have access to the great energy of the sympathetic nervous system. It enables that healing and balancing to permit the stress of an active sympathetic nervous system to be endured for much longer times, and at much greater levels, than normally possible.
This does several things. One is to increase the length of time adrenaline is in the bloodstream, another is to allow a greater than usual level of adrenaline to be tolerated before its debilitating side effects (loss of coordination, shakes, bad judgement) show up. The length of time the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) dulls or eliminates the sensation of pain increases too, as does the level of pain that can be tolerated. This state also synthesizes the functioning of all the different parts of the brain, makes it function as one. Such supreme focus is never possible in a normal state. Because it is the ultimate synthesis of SNS and PSNS (parasympathetic nervous system), of right and left brains, it causes the experience of inspiration. It is the unitary state that gives rise to the eureka moment.
Whatever the emotions are, whatever is in the mind, at the moment that mind and body make the transition into the unitary state sets the tone and nature of the experience of the unitary state. Unitary states created by intensive religious ritual often result in a vision of or the experience of hearing the voice of the practitioner's god. Unitary states created by the stress of a life and death emergency, like a car suddenly swerving into your lane right in front of you tend to give you a burst of the reflexes and skills of a profesional race car driver. And when the ritual is designed to work up furious emotions and is concentrated upon an enemy or some other danger the berserker trance results. With the force of the whole brain behind it the fury becomes a transcendental emotion. (And this is part of why berserkers need a lot of training, to be able to safely handle such things.) Adrenaline levels shoot through the roof, for adrenaline is the body's primary response to either fighting or fleeing. It is a chemical in the blood that temporarily increases strength and reflexes. It is often caused by furious emotions, and it tends to fuel feelings of rage and fear. It is this chemical that most berserks believe is at least partly responsible for the sensation of wod.
Wod amplifies the strength. Development of strength is one of the three pillars of the berserker style of fighting. The boost of raw strength from the heightened levels of adrenaline is one of the berserk's most basic weapons, as a fight can be ended simply by causing enough damage in a short enough period of time, or by grappling with and completely subduing an attacker, or just knocking him out. But reservoirs of wod are not limitless, and expending it in striking or moving drains the berserk, making him or her unable to call upon it again for some variable time. This can leave the berserk vulnerable to a sudden counterattack. One of the most important things for the berserk to learn is wod management. This involves raising the wod to a high enough level that it can amplify strength when used, but so that it is not all spent on the attack. Learning also to increase the maximum amount of wod that can be raised and learning to decrease the time it takes to raise it are critical to the fighting berserk, as is learning to hold high levels of wod in reserve, without using it for physical action.
Wod also amplifies the berserk's speed. This increased speed of movement allows excellent use of stop-attacks, where an opponent's attack, just begun, is countered not with a block or evasion but by making a more rapid strike of the berserk's own. For this reason the berserk must learn to move as efficiently as possible, to make no unnecessary movements of any kind. The fewer the wasted movements, the faster (and stronger) the motion. This increased speed also allows the berserk to make use of various tactics of deception. One such is standing out of distance, or what would be out of distance for a non-berserk fighter. This will in many opponents cause them to lower their guards at least a little to conserve energy, allowing the berserk to suddenly and surprisingly rush in and hit home. Shootfighting berserks would do well to emphasize speed in their approach to training.
The third pillar of the berserker style of fighting is right action. This is attaining the knowledge to take whatever action is most right, most appropriate, for the circumstances of the fight. This is why the berserkergang makes no use of forms, as forms create expectations and assumptions about a fight and your opponent that aren't always right. Berserkers tend to cultivate an open observing state of mind, free, flexible, ready to do anything. It is a concept similar to why professional drivers "float the suspension" by stepping on neither gas nor brakes over rough patches of road. When things are prone to changing rapidly and any action at all might be called for, and if the car (or body) is busy doing the wrong thing, there is that much more energy and momentum to be overcome before the proper remedy can be applied, and this additional delay could mean the difference between victory and defeat.
The berserker gains this knowledge of right action through various means. One way right action is gained is through heightened senses. Possessed by an animal spirit, the berserk has the sharper senses of that animal. (That's me speaking as a spiritual man. Speaking as a scientist I might say that the rapid processing of the sensory data going on in the mind in the unitary state of consciousness produces the appearance of sharper senses by more accurately and rapidly analyzing them and their meanings.) Sharper vision allows for even slight flaws in the stance of an opponent to be noticed, and for the line of the opponent's attack to be predicted from just the slightest initial twitching of his body as the attack just begins. Sharper hearing can allow for increased indications as to the opponent's intentions, by picking up on subtly shifting stances or tensing muscles from the sounds of rustling clothing and shuffling feet. Sharper smell can allow for the opponent's emotional/spiritual state to be determined, as the berserk in the unitary state has the ability to smell subtle hormonal changes like some animals do, enabling the berserk to smell fear, aggression, weakness, etc.
This faster mental processing is at least partially caused by elevated adrenaline levels, increased electrical energy in the nervous system, suppression of activity in the forebrain, and reliance upon the much faster processes of the hindbrain. Mind, body, and spirit functioning as one increases this processing speed by increasing the amount of physical resources being pumped into the processing (more parts of the brain than usual, powered by more parts of the body than usual, work to process each and every thought/reaction). This higher reaction speed makes the berserk more capable of mounting an effective defense to any attack as well as becoming quick enough to take advantage of small weaknesses in an opponent's defense. It also allows for the highly aggressive fighting style of the berserk to be safely performed. While many non-berserk scholars think that berserks just pressed their attacks madly with no thought for defense, in reality they were taking advantage of their extraordinary reflexes to make attack and defense one. By immediately reacting to the flaws and weaknesses in the opponent's defenses (mental, physical, and spiritual) berserks are able to make attacks that because of their lines do not allow the opponent any line of attack himself. Attack and defense in one motion. This creates a highly energetic, furious, aggressive attack, one that is continuous for long stretches of time. This circumvents a weakness many other martial arts are prone to, that of waiting, reacting, and backing up, things encouraged by many styles but vulnerable to manipulation by a knowledgeable opponent.
The effect all this increased rate of neural processing has is called psychetachia. This is the impression the berserk comes to have that time in the outside world suddenly seems to slow down. In its extreme forms falling objects seem to float to the ground, opponents seem to move as if through molasses. It is critical to the development of the gangr as a martial art that the berserk learn to control this sense of psychetachia.
Natural berserks generally can only enter the berserker trance in response to some great external stress, like the danger of a fight, or a mugging, or a car accident. Some few can enter and exit the state at will without any training. But they are very rare. Most berserks need an initation to gain control over entering and exiting the state at will. An initiation is the deliberate creation of a stressful, even dangerous situation, with the intent to go berserk. It is the intent that seems to be the critical feature. When the unitary state is once created with such intent in mind then it seems to learn something important, to pay attention to how things felt, how things happened, to sufficient degree to allow the state to be duplicated in the future.
An initiation is not something to be undertaken lightly. In order to have sufficient stress to really trigger this specific type of unitary state there needs to be some genuine danger. And this is, well, dangerous. (Read the disclaimer on the Home page!) It is very difficult to handle the high levels of stress the entrance into the berserker trance requires. (For while the unitary state is a possible reaction to great stress, a more common one is simply shutting everything down in a panic.) It needs a deep meditative state, or hypnotic trance, and this state needs to be kept even when massive amounts of adrenaline and wild emotions are coursing through you. If you cannot remain in meditation in such circumstances than you cannot deliberately enter this state, and attempting to do so is pointlessly risky.
Once a berserk is settled on performing an initiation ritual he or she enters into a period of contemplation, prayer, and/or meditation. It should, properly speaking, last at least a month. To go berserk in such a contrived and artificial manner is difficult, and every advantage is needed. Such a long period of thinking about the gangr, as the berserker trance is called, and of meditating, and praying for divine aid gets a certain momentum going. The mind becomes very easily moved towards thoughts and feelings about it, and is in a more deeply spiritual state than usual. (This waiting period also tests the berserk's resolve. If the will is insufficient to see the wait through then it is insufficient for the initiation.) A special location is usually selected. I used a ghost town, abandoned centuries ago amid rumors that its inhabitants were werewolves. Others have used places on haunted mountains, or in a place where other berserks have been initiated. The point to pick a place with a good atmosphere, as this makes the shift into the gangr easier to accomplish. Ritual tools are usually created during the wait as well. Their presence in the initiation serves as an immediate reminder to the initiate of all the preparation, and the good meditative, spiritual states that accompanied it. This makes it possible to get into better meditative, spiritual states. Once the initiation starts it is usually a matter of uttering prayers and making offerings, or at least making a formal and elaborate statement of intent to go berserk. The important element is that the initiate swear by whatever he or she holds sacred to endure the coming hardship and not flinch from it until the change comes.
Then it is simply a matter of the danger itself. Some berserkers have held their hands in flames. One I know drank 40 ounces of mead (it's about as strong as brandy), and had never really drunk before in his life, and chased it with 12 ounces of espresso, and then stepped into the ring for a fight with an older, more experienced berserk who was quite capable of easily beating him even without the stomach pain of so much booze and caffeine, or the deranged senses the overload of both brought about. Another fought with a man who'd been beating him in fights for a solid month. Another fasted for days and then went on an extreme hike. As extreme as these practices seem they are actually toned down compromises for safety with the ancient types of initiation, examples of which include going into a bear's cave with only a knife and returning with one of its claws and getting buried up to your waist and having other warriors throw spears at you while your only possible defense is to bat them aside. The extremes of the ancients don't seem to actually be necessary. Our safer modern rituals work. But some minimum level of genuine risk does seem to be needed to get them to work.
A word here needs to be said about initiations. Let me describe to you an example of what they can be like when they go a little wrong. A young natural berserk I knew from the forum wanted to be initiated, to gain control over the gangr. But unlike the others who had had their initiations he had very little training in either meditative arts or martial arts. He was careful to flawlessly perform a very complex and carefully created initiation ritual, taking every advantage he could to make it easier and more likely to occur. Others who had done it the way he wanted to, with a hand in flames, had ended up without burning or with minor burns. (Resistance to being burned is a trademark of the somafera state the world over. A scientific discussion of the mechanism of this resistance exists elsewhere on this site.) He got to the fire part of his ritual. He held his hand in the flames for several seconds. He screamed eventually, and dropped to the ground, writhing in pain. But as the rite had not yet succeeded he placed his hand in the fire again. I was taking part in the ritual, one of the drummers who were also screaming and howling, to help set the mood. I saw his hand literally burst. The flesh, badly burned, split down his whole hand and a bright red burst of blood splashed into the fire. In that moment he finally entered the gangr. When we finally got him down from the gangr enough to get him to medical treatment he was hospitalized for days. He did not regain full use of the hand for a year, until after a second surgery. He is permanently scarred, Freddy Krueger style. Such injury during initiation is rare. But it can happen. The information on this page is provided for serious practitioners who know themselves and know their limits, who desire to take their training in this direction. (The only other kind of person who would mess with something like this is a complete idiot.) We at Rillway Combatives Academy believe that doing so with all the information at your disposal is safer than going into it blind.
Once the berserk has passed through initiation the basic technique must be mastered. This is usually done by recreating the initiation ritual over and over again, each time taking out an element until a simpler ritual is obtained that allows the berserk to successfully enter the gangr with little more than a concentration of will power and some exercises. In my case, I first redid the initiation without the months of preparation. Then I did it without all the elaborate words and invocations. Then I exchanged the fire for a candle. Then I did away with the candle. Eventually I had a core of visualizations, memories, leaping, contorting, and meditating that caused the gangr to occur with sufficient effort of will.
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After the somafera initiate has gone through the intiation ritual he or she will desire to develop a technique to effect the transformation. (A process sometimes called, in modern times, elevation.) One component for such a ritual are those techniques described in the Wod Raising Technique article. Another effective element would be one that incorporated both emotionally affective imagery and left-brain intellectual conceptualizing. (Note: this is not the same thing as using left-brain discriminating thought. It is rather a right-brain gestaltic understanding of a complex left-brain-defined concept.) Such an element would be, (for berserks or others using a Norse religious/mythological framework), the use of runes, as the ancient practitioners of trollaukin used. Runes are metaphysical symbols that have emotional associations and definitions derived in part from their inherent meanings and partly from their relationship to surrounding runes in the case of rune magic. The following are a pair of runes based conceptually on the trollaukin runes from the collection of Jon Arnason, but utilizing the Elder Futhark. One reason for this is that the trollaukin runes utilize the Icelandic rune row, but the Elder rune row is the one is most common use today. Another is that by rewriting it slightly I was able to work in symbolism reflecting our modern understandings.
The first rune is first of all supposed to evoke the Helm of Awe, appropriate enough I think as a source of emotion/power for the elevation. Next come the algiz runes. Algiz, while the least is known from old sources about its proper interpretation, most likely means connection with the realm of the dead, and also communication, especially as with spirits, and even more particularly with beneficial guides and protectors. Now there are four of them, a completeness of them, to work with Norse numerological folklore symbology. I will say therefore that this means that this spirit-connection-with-the-world-of-the-dead spreads throughout the whole mind/self. Furthermore you might take the arrangement of four algiz runes oriented like this as meaning they also comprise a gebo rune, a rune of sacrifice and partnership. This has a few useful meanings. One is that this rune therefore give a partnership with some spirit from the Outgarths, and is therefore a rune of possession. Another reading is that the spirit connection sacrifices the self (as with Odin on the world tree), thus meaning that this rune is useful as well in destroying the ego-self, a necessary prerequisite for possession. Still another is that sacrifice of the self creates partnership with a spirit. The other major structure of this bindrune is the ing-isa structure. Ing is fertile energy, raw creative power, it has a sexual implication. Isa is ice. Combining them gives a rune that can be read with either of two interpretations. One is that fertile energy is frozen, rendered impotent. The other is that the fertile energy is rendered indestructible, eternal, like ice.
There are four possible ways to read this rune as a whole then.
Interpretations 1) and 4) share conceptual similarites, as do 2) and 3). Two and three describe sacrifice in one fashion or another, death. This can be equated to Odin's sacrifice on the Tree, descent from Valhalla to Hel. One and four speak of eternal fertile energy gained from death and sacrifice. This describes his reascent back from Hel to Valhalla, armed with new knowledge, nature. This seems a natural relationship to the ends of establishing two of the kinds of spirit-visions. The journey Helwards and the journey Valhallawards. This would provide connection to two of the gods, namely Odin and Hela. Aleternately it might provide connection to alfs or other spirits with such Odinic or Helish natures. This makes this rune essentially like the gapaldur rune then. It establishes simultaneous spiritual connection in two opposite but powerful directions, and it spreads this connection through the whole self. It further tends to invoke the sorts of visions (sacrifice, ascent) that comprise the "standard" shamanistic spirit-journey.
The other rune is a hagl and uruz. Hagl can be intepreted as "hail". Hail has both a negative, destructive aspect and a positive, generative one (hail melts and becomes crop-nourishing water). Uruz means "aurochs", and as such means raw, mad, wild, primeval power. (And what more appropriate rune for the gangr?) This rune therefore has two meanings; primeval power that nourishes, helps; and primeval power that lays waste. One concept is much like the ginfaxi rune, which seemed to speak of storm upon the sea. Hailstorm that destroys seems another way of saying the same thing. This means that the berserker is being opened up to all the mad destructive forces within. This is an enormous source of stress, and so will actually serve to promote elevation. Additionally it is wise, IMHO, to embrace closely all those horrible destructive, wild elements of the gangr. It keeps such things as elements of the vision accompanying the gangr being experienced. That means those forces will be integrated into your state of mind, rather than remain invisible, somewhere "out there", and really messing with you. You know, "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer"? It also spends those forces, blunting the damage they can do, but using their energy to create the vision symbolizing them. Also, by embracing these forces you subject your mind to a purification by scourging; all the weakest elements of your spiritual state will be eradicated by it. If you can hold on to the main elements of the spiritual state, a purer, deeper, more genuine spiritual state will result.
There are two ways these two runes work together. One is that the desrtuctive, scourging elements are drawn from the contact with the spirits/forces of the first rune. This serves to unite the visions of these two runes into one, encouraging unitary state by making sure all thought and emotion are flowing along harmoniously. The other way is that the possession by the spirits, raising your fertile energy, turns that energy into the mad primeval passion of the gangr. These runes will act upon each other, and form an interesting system. When the first rune is activated there is an equal tendency to move spiritually in either of two directions; Helwards or Valhallawards. The deciding element of whichever you experience then most predominantly will be a matter of random chance, whatever is currently most dominant in the subconscious. The second rune aids in this by raising the level of subconscious contact, and thus helps ensure that the resulting vision is more likely to work most closely with those elements of your subconscious and spiritual state that are currently the closest to the gangr already. When motion goes too far in either direction, and your need is for more of the other direction at the moment, you will start experiencing interference from the sunconcious. This invokes the destructive forces of the second rune, which tends to destroy the spiritual state you are currently in, leaving you spiritually ripe to naturally move in the opposite direction in the new phase of your vision. (If you've ever studied Jung's theory of shadow and persona, you'll understand why.)
This is a naturally self-correcting system. Motion that tends in the right direction is strengthened, motion in the wrong direction tends to be inhibited. The more practice you have with using these runes, the more speedily and naturally they will bring about the gangr just from contemplating them. They will tend to keep a vision going, in a continuous sense, and tend to make it stay in areas that easily lead to the sorts of emotions/experiences that bring about the gangr. It is adding an element missing, I fear, from much practical spiritual science. That is left-brain input. The left brain is traditionally regarded with suspicion by occultists, but I think it should not be. After all, it is very useful. Repeated practice with just such a ritual as this will provide a strong left-brain oriented image. The wonderful thing about the left brain is that it is able to guide, precisely, every content of the mind, even the powerful emotions of the right brain. Repeated practice with these runes will lead to a deep understanding of them, an instinctual understanding. This means that simply thinking about them even lightly will still naturally and strongly guide the contents of the mind along, without effort. And this means that since there will no longer be any striving, any conscious intent, practice with these runes will give you all the advantages of left brain guidance and fine tuning with none of the drawbacks of left brain interference, noise, and anti-unitary discrimination between things. Furthermore the deeper the understanding of these runes, the less energy required to actually elevate, to transform into the wolf, bear, whatever, the more energy left for utilization in other things.
And in keeping with tradition I would say to wear these runes on each foot, like in the ancient spell discussed in the Trollaukin article. Or maybe one on each hand.
A further use of these runes is all the many different interpretations, connections, and symbolisms that can be made from and between them. Far too many to hold consciously all in the attention. But by striving to do so, you naturally overwhelm your conscious mind. If you learn to let this happen, this is the necessary stress, the overwhelming energy that destroys the ego, that are necessary to become possessed, to invoke the gangr! Thus these runes encourage the gangr through a heavily mental component. This requires much less therefore in the way of physical stress/pain, and so makes the gangr even easier, and increses the power you have at your disposal still further.
After the initiation into the practice of somafera (a necessary experience if it is to be deliberately invoked or controlled) it is usually not desirable to simply repeat the initiation experience in order to bring about the somafera state, for they often involve large amounts of pain, danger, hardship, etc. And fortunately it is not necessary to. Once the true depth of the somafera state has been experienced once it can be brought about again utilizing certain techniques to raise the wod, or "possessionary fury".
These techniques center around the concept of dynamic tension. Dynamic tension can be achieved by tensing all the muscles in, say, the arm, and then moving the arm around. These sorts of motions tend to raise adrenaline levels, which triggers wod. Wod is also raised by both hyperventilation and deep breathing. One can combine these things with the basic elements of ritual and end up with a concise, effective, easy wod raising technique. Turn the wod raising ritual into a sort of a dance. Crounch low on the haunches, balanced on the balls of the feet. Raise up, return to crouching, over and over again. Tense the muscles of first one arm, then the other, then the first one again. Build up a rhythm. Move the arms, tense, in and out, from one side to the other. Breathe deeply and alternate it with rapid shallower hyperventilation. Suddenly leap to some random other place and land crouching on the balls of the feet. Suddenly spring up onto the tiptoes and whip the head around backwards. (Warning: only do this if you have gymnastics, dance, or martial arts experience AND KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING! It is quite possible to seriously injure yourself doing that.) A little while of this sort of dance, especially combined with vision-inducing techniques and/or prayer will have a great effect on the level of wod experienced.
Progress in elevation is not smooth. There are stages to learning wherein rapid advancement is made all at once, followed by long plateaus. Learning to identify different stages in elevation can teach the practitioner much about just what is going on with elevation. Here is a list of some stages as I have experienced them. These are my stages, the way I have learned. I post them here as an example of how learning might progress. But learning is a highly individual process, in this practice even more than in others. While others might have similarities in the way they learn, it is unlikely their experiences would mirror mine.
The first stage is barely worthy of being considered a true gangr at all. It occurs at the beginning of the mind's attempt at reaching a unitary state, which is to say that while the mind is in a unitary state, there is also significant error and major blocks are still in place. This stage is characterized by a slight sharpening of the senses and a feeling that "the blood is up". Everything may seem crisp somehow. This is not unlike the state sports players get into before a game by "psyching up". There is little, though noticable, increase in strength and speed. Intuition may become more dominant.
The second stage is like the first, but instead of being a matter of psyching up, it is more like "tripping into". Emotions run wild. The object of attention dominates one's whole world. Strength and speed significantly increase, even to the maximum possible for the practitioner's body (where so much adrenaline is released the entire body tingles, and buzzes, and feels taut), but the increase is not maintainable for very long. Thinking, in the sense of forebrain activity, is almost completely absent. The animal nature dominates. Psychetachia becomes pronounced, though difficult if not impossible to control.
While the first two stages comprise "the basics" of the gangr the third stage is where the work of refining technique really begins. The wod raised to the second stage nature consumes the practitioner. Everything becomes eaten away, burnt up, destroyed by the fire that is the gangr. Hel-blindness results. There is not only no human nature (forebrain activity), there is no animal nature. There is no nature of any sort. No awareness. No world. All is empty. The opposite of psychetachia occurs, and time races by in the outside world (once the practitioner again becomes aware of it) while it stops inside the practitioner. This emptiness does not last, for some minor imperfection in it will retrigger the awareness processes. Once this occurs the brain will automatically revert to the last state it was in: wod-ful. But it only has an image of the previous wod state, and it is this image it uses. Detail has been lost, and this is a good thing. The lost details will be most often peripheral, and therefore less helpful to the gangr. Thus the hel-blindness actually serves to "clean up" the mind, make the state of the gangr purer. It also rests mind and body so when elevation again commences, once the mind re-attains awareness, the gangr can be made even deeper, even more wod can be released and handled. This leads again to being consumed, and the whole proces goes 'round again. At stage three there is better control of psychetachia. Strength and speed increase further, but there is less display (less growling, tensing of muscles, and getting really worked up). This is because the body, mind, and spirit are becoming more efficient in their operations. But there is a danger at this stage, if it is being used for martial arts purposes. The practitioner can be blindsided while in the hel-blind state.
Stage four eliminates the danger of stage three. Once sufficient experience at stage three techniques is had, the practitioner can learn to have one part of the mind in a state of wod, and dealing with external things, and another part of the mind in a hel-blind state, resting and resetting. Once the moment of action has passed, the wod-mind goes hel-blind, and the hel-blind mind becomes aware again and takes up the elevation, seamlessly ready to deal with the next necessity. It may seem that there can be no unitary state while the mind is so divided, but this is not true. Both can be seen as aspects of the same thing, and as such the technique must be applied.
At the fourth stage visions start to occur with regularity. Everything in the practitioner's field of vision shines. There is an incredible feeling of being so incredibly awake it can scarce be believed. But visions can go bad here too, and become distracting or frightening, or even psychologically harmful. Voices might be heard that chant or shout obscenities. There is a real danger here of going temporarily mad, and not in a good way. This is all because everything in the mind is becoming amplified, bad things along with good. This is why the practice of somafera, especially at this level, is strongly not recommended unless the practitioner is ready, willing, and able to confront all of his or her own weaknesses, darknesses, and personal demons all at once. Remember "to light a candle is to cast a shadow."
The practitioner here will have great accuracy at predicting things, such as the next move of an opponent. There is a feeling (a knowing) of oneness with all things. There is noticably improved control over psychetachia.
In stage five the mind is sort of "shuffled", like a pack of cards. Different parts of the mind, having different states of either wod or hel-blindness, continuously interact and change each other. This is done according to certain patterns and precepts that maximize the effectiveness of finding information buried deeply within the brain. It is like being, spiritually, on a rollercoaster. It is like a snowball rolling downhill, picking up ever more snow and growing ever larger. One part of the mind makes another more aware, more powerful, releases more adrenaline, and this feeds back into the first making it stronger too, and so on.
Here, after the shining of the fourth stage, the skin all over the body begins to prickle, forms gooseflesh. The body hair all stands on end. There is an electric thrill that runs through the whole body, especially over the skin. Those practitioners who elevate via an animal spirit will usually perceive this sensation as the body actually growing new hair. As visions at this stage are deep and regular, this may appear to be visually the case (to the practitioner) as well. This, along with the spiritual feelings, gives the practitioner the impression he or she has actually become an animal.
The deeper visions also mean things like, for those who utilize visions of spirits, that they will often talk to you in a way they can be heard. They can inspire. Inspirations flow so fast that, if the practitioner is a person who works with inspiration such as a writer, poet, musician, or artist, it can be nearly impossible to keep up. Creativity is multiplied an hundred-fold. The body feels as if it were hit with stroke after stroke of lightning. Strength becomes truly prodigious. Reactions are lightning fast and always spot-on. Adrenaline flows so freely time seems to crawl, leaving all the time in the world for decision making. And more, this maximally efficient state becomes maintainable for increasingly longer periods of time. When the pure hel-blind state is entered into (and even though the mind is utilizing both hel-blind and wod states simultaneously, there are still greater periods when one or the other completely dominates) it is even more pure. (Don't ask me how, it has to be experienced to be understood.) Animal nature is unrestrained, but control is still maintained. This is a state of completely raging control.
When it is first encountered stage five leads the practitioner into a final showdown, as it were, with the inner darknesses. As it amplifies every good thing, as it makes the internal guides so much more real, it amplifies every bad thing and makes internal destructive forces so much more real. The internal demon, as it were, may start to wear a face, or have a voice. It will start to gain control over the practitioner unless the practitioner can defeat it. It cannot be fought. It cannot be reasoned with. It cannot be mastered. It cannot be controlled. It is the practitioner's own self, as much as the bright strong thing that is his or her elevated nature is. The Abyss must be crossed. The only way out is through. The practitioner must enter into the darkness, embrace it, accept it. The practitioner must become one with his or her shadow self. If it sounds like I'm being vague and mysterious, it's because I am. There is no way for words to convey what occurs here, or what is required. It must be experienced to be understood. Annihilation is the price of failure, rapture and a form of enlightenment is the reward of victory.
The sixth stage not only reaps the rewards of the crossing of the Abyss, but the techniques that bring the practitioner to it are those learned in the process of dealing with that crossing. Nothing is held onto. One thing after another occurs, and passes. Joy arises, and falls away, and comes again immediately from elsewhere. Visions are continuous, as are the inspirations they bring. One form melts into another. All is flow, continuous flow. There are no blocks to impede it. As soon as each vision occurs, it is let go of before it can bring the kind of unbalance that holding onto it brings. Great rewards are reaped from the internal flow of visions and experiences here, with minimum detriment. Elevation occurs rapidly, and quite strongly, and with little effort. I can describe no more, as the usefulness of words here fails me.
The important elements, I believe, in the above progress, are as follows: first learning how to enter into the gangr at will must occur. Then one must learn to maximize the wod (and therefore adrenaline) in the body. Afterwards, the state of shining must be achieved, with the increase in visionary states this brings. Either concurrently with this, or afterwards (though possibly before, in some cases) the body-buzzing, hair-standing-on-end must occur, with the chills that usually accompany it. Finally a state where the face flushes and the body begins to heat up is sought. I am sure there is more after this, as well, but it currently lies outside my experience.
It must be kept in mind here that the division of the process of elevation into stages is highly arbitrary. Different people will experience these things differently, and in different orders. It is all highly individual. These stages are not set in stone. They should under no circumstances be looked upon as marks of accomplishment or badges! They are not a ranking system. The fact that I, for instance, go though a lot of stages in a short period of time says less about my rate of progress than my type of progress. I progress in this art by taking myself, via training, up to the edge of myself and putting myself in a situation where I need to do better than my best. Through spiritual techniques I find a way to do this. Normally what would then be necessary is to do a lot of work to figure out why what just happened, happened, and to learn to repeat it, and to do it more efficiently. I do not do this. Instead I just put myself in another need situation, reach within for the inspiration to do even better still, and then work backwards. That is, having two different points of accomplishment to compare, I figure out what the steps in between had to have been. It is more difficult to do it this way in some ways than to go slow and take the time to work out each step before taking it. But it makes for faster progress, if I don't hurt myself. But I do it this way because this is what works for me. It is neither better nor worse than other ways of going about learning. Others have other paths. One person's stage two may be good as another's stage five. The sole reason they are provided is for informational purposes. The sole use they have is as a counting system, or a taxonomical one. What is named is understood in such a way as to allow for conceptual manipulation, and learning to identify one's own stages can be a most valuable tool in seeking to improve practice and learning what works and what doesn't.
One of the chief difficulties to overcome in the process of elevating is that of burning the wod. Wod is an old words that means both "fury" and "possession". It is both a spiritual state and it indicates the presence of elevated levels of adrenaline in the body.
The mind is a machine, not unlike a computer. Thinking about something is a form of processing like what a computer does. But unlike a computer, thoughts are not exact. Thoughts associate. Seeing a house, for instance, brings memories of other houses that were like it, and of different experiences in houses, all unbidden.
Elevation is (amongst other things) a process of combining thoughts with emotions, especially those emotions that reflect adrenaline (such as fury). Wod quickens the blood, makes the mind race. This quickens the racing of thoughts through the mind, makes them more powerful. It also makes them less exact. Each thought requires a certain amount of energy to make it happen. Energy in excess of this "spills over" into other thoughts.
I call this "burning the wod" (because the feeling it produces in the mind is a "burnt" feeling). Unintended associations spring up when the wod is burned. This can diffuse or even stop elevation entirely. This is especially so because, as Jung pointed out, opposite thoughts are stored close together in the brain. Thus "ice" is close to "fire", "don't want to" is close to "want to". So burning the wod while elevating will particularly bring out anti-elevating thoughts. Additionally, burnt wod can have physical effects. It can overadrenalize the muscles to the point where there is no elevated strength at all, but just debilitating cramps and shakes. In such circumstances it can be difficult to even simply stand up.
It is especially easy to burn the wod when first learning to elevate. This is because you don't as yet really know how to elevate correctly. Subconsciously you are likely to overcompensate and raise the wod up much higher than it needs to be. But as with carrying a cup of liquid, it is better not to fill it right up to the brim. Think of it like trying to free a car stuck in the snow. Using too much gas does nothing more than spin the wheels uselessly. One of the first things a new practitioner of somafera will need to do is to learn how to use just enough wod to elevate without using too much. In this the various practices and training exercises of somafera are particularly useful.
The gangr is a unitary state of consciousness. Furthermore, it involves a shutting down of the activity of the forebrain, the conscious part of the mind. These things are related, for the mind cannot be really unified while the conscious mind is active, for the nature of the conscious mind is to make discriminations, to say that a thing is "this" and "not that". This means that the function of the conscious mind is to shut off input from certain parts of the mind, in order to catagorize and compartmentalize things. Unitary action of the mind cannot occur if part of the mind is engaged in shutting off and inhibiting other parts.
This means that control of the gangr (or of anything while in the gangr) is utterly impossible. And this has some fairly serious implications for practitioners of somafera. Entering into the somafera state means amplifying the emotions that are predominant in the mind the moment somafera is entered into. And the emotion leading most readily to somafera is rage. Rage amplified by the unitary state is a horrendous thing indeed. This is why many ancient practitioners such as the Norse berserkers were horrible monsters. Murderers, bullies, living only for battle and greed. And even where they were not of such a nature, the gangr could sweep them away, and cause them to commit acts they found reprehensible when recollected to their senses.
As somafera practitioners are born prone to entering gangrs, this can be a cause for real concern. And because control in the gangr is impossible, it is cause for real serious concern. And even aside from this, somaferans who desire to develop the gangr as a martial art, or as a supplement to other physically demanding skills (such as auto racing), would find this a concern as well. But just because there is no possibility of control there is no reason to resign oneself to a fate of muderous rages and undisciplined gangrs.
The subconscious instinctive nature in dominant in the unitary state. The hypothalamus, the brain's "master switch", will direct action in response to external stimuli according to which neural pathways are most easily activated. That is to say, the hypothalamus selects instinctive responses to external circumstances based on what one is most used to doing in such circumstances. So training in the desired responses to every circumstance ensures that those are the responses that will be instinctively chosen in the gangr. It is a matter of simple classical conditioning, as with Pavlov and his dogs. This means doing sufficient character work to alter one's responses, so that anger can't run away into rage. So that the proper martial responses occur to the proper circumstances. One way to go about this is to learn to associate some other emotion with anger. One might do this by making sure to picture or remember some circumstance where love or compassion is felt every time one gets angry. Even if it is mostly an intellectualization at first, with no real feeling behind it, diligent effort will make that feeling grow. Another way to do this is to associate unpleasant, aversive feelings with anger, such as guilt, by picturing the horrible consequences of unchecked rage every time anger is felt. In time (much time, in all likelihood) anger will be naturally and instinctively balanced by emotions that will tend to keep it in check. This means that the somaferan can receive the benefits of rage, with its easy prodding into the gangr, but be shielded from its drawbacks, for the stronger the rage rises the stronger the compassion and/or aversive emotions rise as well. In this way emotional balance is naturally kept, without the need for conscious control. And of course similar techniques can be used to train in specific martial techniques.
There is no term in the english language for this. But one has been developed by modern somaferans to describe it. This term is "huvardka". Its formal definition:
A change in the subconscious (the minni, the mind-intent) that causes the somaferan's actions to naturally and spontaneously flow along the desired path without conscious choice. It is a sort of "subconscious decision making process" that is simply the instinctual following of learned patterns of behavior, resulting from simple classical conditioning. It's what the conscious *would* want if it were turned on. It has all of the advantages of the conscious mind with none of the disadvantages (slow, clunky, prone to error, non-unitary).
A skill critical to the development of somafera as a martial art, and one quite useful in somafera practice in any event, is the attaining of the dagaz moment, as I call it. (Dagaz being the germanic word for twilight, the moment day becomes night, or night becomes day.) It is a default unitary state with the object of a person's attention, whether directed externally or internally, that exists for the first moment a new object enters the field of attention and for a variable time (from no time at all to more than a minute) in an only slightly tarnished form afterwards.
Consider the memory. There is the long term memory we all use to recall events and thoughts from long past. There is the short term memory that we use to recall events up to several minutes ago with much greater clarity than the long term memory, in general. And there is the working memory that, so studies show, has near limitless accurate recall of data for just a few moments, a fraction of a second in most cases.
The reason that the recall is both so large and so accurate is because of the fact that so little, if any, time has elapsed. Think about the state of the working memory the very instant that the sensory data or thought hit it; those data, that thought, would be recorded with perfect accuracy, for nothing other than the recording process has created the memory. Thought is a physical process, involving the firing of neurons (the nerve cells of the brain). This takes a certain amount of time to occur. Until it does occur, no corruption of the data can possibly occur. The mind's understanding of the object of attention is perfect, and without error. This is the moment I call the dagaz moment, the moment of twilight, for the sun quickly sets upon this uncorrupted perfection. The moment thought occurs, the potential for error to be introduced into the understanding, into the working memory occurs. After all, no one and nothing is perfect, all of our thoughts are a little off; partially, potentially flawed.
This means that action taken precisely in response to the dagaz moment of a particular thought will be right on; swift, accurate, strong. But learning to recognize a dagaz moment quickly enough to be able to so take advantage of it is quite difficult. But it is possible. A dedicated practitioner of somafera could benefit enormously from skill in this area, for it would allow he or she the ability to respond instictively to things, and as part of that response mentally set up conditions so that it is easier to recognize and appropriately respond to the next dagaz moment.
Take somafera as a martial art. The martial artist who could recognize and respond to dagaz moments quickly enough could attain a dagaz moment unitary state with the mere beginnings of an opponent's move, accurately anticipating where it will land well enough before it does so that it can be countered with minimal energy and minimal movement, leaving enough attention in the mind to recognize the next most appropriate dagaz moment to respond to.
The dagaz moment can be extended (sort of) a little while longer than is natural for the practitioner simply by being in a clear minded meditative state, preferably unattached to the ego. This will ensure that while some unescapable minimum of subconscious thought-association is going on, it will not seriously corrupt the image of the dagaz moment a little while longer.
A practice I undertook to help myself recognize dagaz moments involved throwing small rocks at young trees or poles a good ten yards away. I would have my gaze lowered, or away, or was inwardly focused, and would suddenly look up at my target and throw the rock I was holding simultaneously at it. This helped the action to be taken directly in response to the dagaz moment, and I grew more easily able to identify this occuring.
Another practice I found useful involved sword cutting practice. I would practice swinging my sword at its target (a log) and stopping short a hair's breadth away from it. Not pulling back on the swing, mind, but naturally stopping short at that point. This required developing the skill of noticing and catching dagaz moments. A good aid to the process was to be looking away, suddenly look at the space just above the target and cut, and immediately close my eyes, so no further visual data were being processed. (Word of warning: don't cut your fool self doing this, only attempt if you really know what you are doing with a sword. And of course never perform anywhere near others, one can always lose one's grip.)
Somaferans have a number of distinct differences from non-somaferans, and while these differences give rise to the many benefits of the altered physiological state that is the gangr, they also give rise to unique weaknesses and problems that non-somaferans do not share.
One of these differences is our strong mind-body interface. The unitary state, the state the brain functions in during the gangr, is partially defined by the simultaneous activation of the sympathetic nervous system (that causes the "fight or flight" responses) and the parasympathetic nervous system (that heals, rests, and rebalances the body). Normally mutually exclusive in non-unitary states of consciousness, their simultaneous activation during the gangr means that the parasympathetic nervous system becomes able to draw upon all the racing excess energy of the sympathetic nervous system. This provides somaferans with stronger, quicker-than-usual healing capabilities. It also makes us much more susceptible to psychosomatic illness. A simple soon-to-pass bad mood, harmless in most people, is often a sufficient stressor in a somaferan to induce stress-related illness. Long term stress can be even worse, and possibly makes us much more prone to heart attacks.
The pattern seeking elements every human being possesses as part of the basic circuitry of the mind are especially sensitive in a somaferan. It is primarily what allows us to so easily enter the unitary state, whereas most non-somaferans must struggle and study for years to enter it even once, by quickly finding patterns in almost everything, so no matter what state of mind or emotion the somaferan is in, no matter what the somaferan is doing, the somaferan can quickly and easily unify the contents of his or her mind, driving all the different parts to start working along the same lines, together. We do not need all the ritual non-somaferans need to enter the unitary state, it is reflexive for us because seeing patterns in many different things is reflexive for us. But this has some serious downsides as well. One is that it can turn the volume on the "inner critic" that everyone has to some extent or other WAY up. Every mistake the somaferan makes, both in large matters in small can come to seem unbelievably stupid. Every time the somaferan fails to learn from a mistake something an immediate haranguing from that inner voice starts up, drowning out all other thought, unstoppable. This sort of thing, combined with the natural excessive emotions somaferans are prone to, can easily create such emotions as self hatred and despair. This sort of thing can all to easily become a habitual way of thinking.
The reason we somaferans are so vulnerable to this is those pattern seeking elements of the mind work so well that we cannot help but be aware of the myriad errors and mistakes everyone makes doing everything (after all, perfection at anything is impossible). Non-somaferans easily learn to dismiss these thoughts. Somaferans cannot, but as we are usually raised in non-somaferan societies we are rarely taught emotional and intellectual skills to cope with such issues. And of course this propensity to find fault and be dissatisfied can be unconsciously directed outwards into the somaferan's judgements of others as well, creating a host of interpersonal problems.
A corrollary to this sort of problem is the propensity for problems to look worse and worse to our eyes the deeper we go with the gangr. The purer the mind becomes, the more unified it becomes, the more it contrasts with impure states of mind. Thus any impure state of mind, any mistake made by any part of the mind, becomes ever more glaringly apparent as the somaferan progresses with his or her art. The reason why can be likened to the state of cleanliness of a mirror. A mirror that is cleaned infrequently accumulates dust and a little dirt. Because these impurities are more or less everywhere on the mirror the eye does not tend to notice them, the eye tends to see only the mirror. But a mirror that is cleaned very frequently is shiny and reflective everywhere. So if even a tiny piece of dust or dirt lands anywhere on a very clean mirror it is very apparaent. Indeed, the eye will be drawn immediately to the impurity, and the rest of the mirror might not even be seen, so glaring is the imperfection. So a somaferan quickly loses a baseline of comparison with which to judge other problems, and becomes lost in a world where all bad things great and small alike seem unbearably horrifying.
As somaferans we cannot escape our Shadows. No one can, really, but we have even fewer places to hide than non-somaferans. The Shadow is a part of the mind, an Archetype, to use Jung's terminology. It is the negative space into which every individual evolves. It is all the repressed, buried, ignored, unexperienced parts of the mind. It is all the things we would rather not think of, all the things we fear, hate, and don't understand. Jung, the father of much of modern psychology, believed that the Shadow would, when too strongly repressed, slip out of control and temporarily take control of the actions of the individual repressing it. This is the reason, according to Jung, for such things as Freudian slips and the knack some people have for screwing up just those things that are most important not to screw up. This is because emotion, all emotion, even negative emotion needs expression. Emotion is energy, and energy never simply vanishes, it just changes from one form into another, as naturally as water runs downhill. The more the Shadow Archetype is repressed, the more it is denied any ability to express the emotional energy that powers it, the more that emotional energy whizzes 'round the subconsious, looking for weak spots where it can overpower the conscious restraints and spend itself.
In the somaferan this tendency of the Shadow to respond to repressing and avoiding it can be much more dangerous, and not just too ourselves. Many somaferans are like the Norse berserks: spiritually predatory animals. Adrenaline is synthesized in our bodies easily and reflexively. For many of us rage is a powerful motivating force in our lives, and a prime emotion by which the gangr is attained. In the unitary state of consciousness this rage is amplified to something transcendental in nature, a roaring black storm of hatred that can completely engulf the somaferan. Many of us, after one experience with this, sense the horrible implications this sort of uncontrolled emotion can have for us: broken relationships, things, and people. Anyone of us coming face to face with the beast within knows that many of our kin must be confined to jails or mental institutions for failing to come to terms with it. And so the natural reaction becomes one of exerting control over it, repressing it. This often involves learning how to stop gangrs entirely once they start, learning how to fight them off, how to scale back on the emotions.
And unfortunately this is, I believe, very much the wrong thing to do, for reason of the Shadow-nature Jung described. The inner monster may horrify the outer human but the inner monster is just as much part of these somaferans as the human. More maybe. And that is a load of emotional energy that cannot be denied ultimately. Repress it, fight it, restrain it however the somaferan will it will eventually find a way out. Inevitably the beast will slip its chain. For no matter how good the emotional discipline of the somaferan sooner or later random chance (and Murphy's Law) will put the somaferan in a high-stress unanticipated situation wherein the disciplines and controls cannot be quickly or easily applied. And when the beast does break loose it will be all the more powerful and raging for its long confinement. When this happens is when situations slip out of control so quickly that no matter how well-intentioned the somaferan is bad things result.
And this creates other problems as well. Long term fighting against one's own true nature creates long-term stress. The gangr is a part of us, and so that powerful mind-body connection is a part of us whether we consciously utilize it or not. But repressing the gangr creates instinctual blocks and hangups about it that can inhibit the free flowing of mental energy. These things tend to bring out many health problems over time. Some berserks I have known who have fought against the gangr all their lives seem to age prematurely, developing athritis, chronic fatigue, and a parade of colds, flus, and pneumonia infections one right after the other. Allergies in such repressed berserks can run amok. This sort of powerful mind-body connection working against the mind and body so connected can also bring out latent health problems such as epilepsy, high blood pressure, strokes, and heart conditions.
And other problems result from fighting the gangr as well. The tendency of problems to become exagerated in a somaferan's eyes grows exponentially worse the more the gangr is repressed. This can result in a phenomenon like a sort of sight that is semi-hallucinatory, a state where everything the somaferan looks at seems to be in the process of decay, of death. Everything is seen to be rotting, withering, failing. Everything seems dirty, impure, unclean. Everything seems stupid, slow, an ugly caricature of itself. This produces feelings of horror and disgust in the somaferan prompting a further reaction of gangr-repression, making the problem even worse, even leading to madness of a rather unhealthy sort.
In my honest opinion the worst thing the practitioner of somafera can do is to fight against the gangr, repressing it. All the benefits are short-term only, all the detriments not only long-term but progressively harder to fight the longer the repression goes on. The thing to do is embrace the Shadow. Embrace the rage, spending it harmlessly in the visionary state, leaving it too weak to affect the somferan's physical deeds. This, some berserks have said, is the ultimate test of the berserk. I have heard the theory put forth that we somaferans have not one but two adolescences. One is the standard one. The other is involved in coming to terms with the Shadow, with the inner monster, and that this involves embracing it as one's own self, and that it is only after this is done that "control" over the gangr can be truly established. By racing to meet these things seeking to dominate control of the every somaferan's nature the somaferan can choose consciously how his or her gangr will proceed, and this means better emotion than rage can be used, like love and joy. This is not control, for no limits are set. Instead this is a supreme sort of balance. The somaferan, by embracing his or her true nature, can never act against it. And while that means that the inner monster always has input into the somaferan's thoughts, deeds, and perceptions, then it also mean that all the nobler thoughts, deeds, and percpetions can never be acted against either.
The key to elevation is intense, transcendental emotion. During the initiation ritual this emotion is generated by applying some external stress, like pain, danger, or fatigue. But as continually using such triggers is both difficult and dangerous, it is better to find another way.
Part of the key to this lies in the initiation ritual itself. By experiencing such a thing once, it becomes easier to duplicate in the future. The other part of this lies in learning to feel strong emotions at will, even without outside triggers, by learning some simple techniques. (Note: though the techniques are simple to describe, learning to apply them might take some time.)
To learn to generate emotions at will it helps to perform this exercise: every time you feel the desired emotion naturally, say some particular word or picture some particular visual image or symbol. (It does not matter what, so long as the word, image, or symbol is symbolically representative of that emotion for you.) After a time of this the pairing of that word/image/symbol and that emotion will be instinctive. Once this occurs simply uttering the word, or picturing the image or symbol will call up the emotion, at least faintly.
It is also necessary to learn meditative stillness. It is difficult to generate an emotion while the mind is busy and other things are being felt. By learning to clear the mind through meditation the ground is cleared for the formation of new emotions.
Emotions can be called up by recalling past circumstances in which you felt that emotion (while in a meditatively clear mind); using the word, image, or symbol described above; and thinking about events, people, and images (as well as prayers, gods,etc.) that are associated with that emotion.
It might seem that the thing to do is to use this to create emotions that are powerful enough to effect elevation. But it is truly difficult to use this (or any) technique to create such transcendental emotions lacking any external triggers, such as a hand in a fire. It is one thing to create emotions at all, but it is quite another to create truly powerful ones from whole cloth.
Luckily it is not necessary to do so. Instead of trying to create depth of emotion, you should try for breadth of emotion. It is much easier to induce several different intermediate-level emotions at once. Once you have learned to induce emotions rapidly enough, simply continuously induce them. That is, once one is created immediately create another without stopping to experience it, before it can waste away. Do this as long as necessary to build up quite a number of emotions all trying to be felt at once. This will have much the same effect as a single powerful emotion. Indeed, after a little while the mind's natural tendency to fuse different lines of thought will take over and combine these all into one powerful emotion anyways. It will be even easier if the emotions that are evoked also relate to each other in some way. If they do, then they will tend to call out still stronger emotions as they interact.
Somafera can be used to heal existing physical problems - it is also an important skill to learn even if you don't tend to get sick or injured, because the practice of elevation has certain negative physical side effects (muscle strain, high blood pressure, etc.) that can become serious if not treated when they occur.
On the most basic level, you may find that over time practicing somafera strengthens your overall immune system. I used to catch every bug that was going around, and yet I haven't had a flu or even a serious cold since I began elevating. Usually I don't get the virus at all. However, sometimes I can feel the beginning of a cold starting to develop - that is the time to elevate and fight it. How you do this can be tailored to your own way of working. For instance, you might approach it as a spiritual battle, fending off the invading virus. Or you might focus instead on aligning and balancing all your internal systems so no outside force can upset them. Personally, I also find it useful to know how the illness operates, and visualize my body's immune system going into overdrive to protect me. (If you work directly with any gods and/or spirits, it might also be helpful to ask them for assistance - to give you the energy to fight it, or give you specific instructions on how to heal it, or however they interact with you.)
It's important to understand the nature of your ailment in order to heal it - for instance, allergies are not the same as viruses (in the former case, your body's own chemicals are the problem) and are not fought in the same manner. Or another example - if you have a migraine, you do not want to elevate in a way that's going to increase your blood pressure (as it often does) since that's just going to aggravate the headache. Learning a little about anatomy and physiology will probably help you here. And some of it is just simple trial and error. I was having no success trying to rid myself of my allergies until I changed my approach and stopped fighting them like a disease. Fortunately, you can tell pretty quickly if something works or not, and can fine tune your healing techniques based on the results.
Elevation can also be used to heal wounds such as cuts and burns, especially if done right after the injury occurs. Elevate and focus all your energy on that one spot, on making it whole again, sealing the wound or cooling the flesh or whatever is needed. If it hurts, use the pain, let it push you into a deeper state, and sharpen your focus. You should find that after some practice you are able to effect a much quicker healing time for your wounds, both big and small, eventually you may be able to accomplish this so easily and even subconsciously that it happens without even trying.
You can also work on any long-term health problems you may have. Let the somafera practice teach you to be more in tune with your body, to know where the imbalances are and how to fix them. Practice, for instance, focusing all of your energy and attention while elevating on one particular part of your body - a finger, a patch of skin, the back of your knee, whatever. Try to attain a unitary state with that part of your body. Now try it for an internal organ. It's possible to do, and very useful once you can master it. For instance, I have often been able to prevent an oncoming asthma attack by achieving enough of a unitary state with my lungs to be able to have more direct control over their "involuntary" workings, and can force the bronchial pathways to expand instead of constrict. You can also attain a unitary state with your whole body (which is so important to somafera anyway), in order to affect a more general, overall improvement in health. I truly believe that the sky's the limit with this, and that it would even be possible to heal such serious diseases as cancer this way. However, if you have a serious condition, you should also seek conventional medical attention - there's no reason you can't do both.
Using elevation to heal yourself will not only make you a healthier person overall, but will also help you counteract the physical problems that result from somafera practice - just use these same kinds of techniques on whatever problems arise. You will eventually get a feel for what works for each thing. And in the end, you will have a stronger and healthier practice.
One of the most important initial questions for any somaferan is "how do I control it?" Control usually means the ability to prevent the state from occuring or avoiding its occurance, and sometimes the ability to trigger it at will, and almost always means learning how to overcome the "impulse control problems" inherent in most somaferans, as well as the temper problems that go along with it.
The first response almost every somaferan has to this question is to find a way to suppress the state, bottling the emotions up inside. But the lucky ones realize the inherent danger of this approach before something really bad happens. For the longer the emotions are bottled up inside the more likely a truly wild and uncontrollable berserkergang will erupt at the worst possible time, even for no apparent reason. This is because the trigger for the somafera state is a powerful enough concentration of emotions held inside instead of spent in expression. This approach also tends to give the somaferan a whole host of psychosomatic illnesses and conditions, usually stomach problems, headaches, depression, and anxiety disorders.
One of the more long-term ways to avoid problematic somaferan states is to play hard. Somaferans have great stores of emotion and energy, and these stores are meant to be used. It's what we were evolved for. So go out and play sports. Spar with a friendly opponent. Exhaust yourself. Run yourself into the ground, in a good way. Satisfy your competitive instincts. Go mountain climbing, or hang gliding. Fulfil your urge to seek danger in a safe way while using a lot of energy. Party hard. Let go of your inhibitions, and the constant effort and stress of holding onto them.
Anything that will spend a significant amount of your energy and emotions will be of great benefit in coming to terms with the problems we somaferans share. We can be a loud, exuberant, energetic people, and that is our strength as well as our weakness.
Instead of suppressing the somaferan state, it is much better to learn to huvardka better responses. "Huvardka" means to instinctively, effortlessly, and unconsciously choose certain responses over others. (As opposed to deliberately and consciously choosing.) The reason that the somafera state is so difficult to control consciously is that the forebrain, the conscious mind, is shut down by it, making it unable to exert any control. So the inner animal becomes dominant as the hindbrain processes take over, and chaos results. But with training the somaferan's instincts can be altered to reflect what the conscious mind would want if it were on. This is huvardka.
Learning to huvardka is not easy. It requires not just a lot of self-awareness but also discipline. One of the most effective ways to do it is simply a matter of conditioning. First choose the emotion, thought, or instinct you wish to change. Then, every time you find yourself in circumstances that bring out the unwanted emotion, thought, or instinct, deliberately try to feel, think, and act in the way you want to act instead. (This is where self-awareness comes in.) At first the impulse to feel, think, and act differently, when it can be remembered at all, will be quite small, likely fleeting in duration and little more than an intellectualization. But repeatedly doing this will cause your mind to learn to associate the unwanted emotions, thoughts, and instincts with the wanted ones. This will slowly start to make the desired feelings, thoughts, and actions stronger, making them more likely to be something you can pay attention to even when distracted by the old ways of feeling, thinking, and acting. And once habit has made them strong enough to notice, then it all comes down to a simple effort of will. Choose always, in every way possible, to pay no attention to the unwanted thoughts, feeling, and instincts (do not fight to suppress them, though), and to pay attention instead to the wanted ones. To act not in the unwanted pattern, but to force yourself to act in the wanted one. Making the correct choice often enough will greatly strengthen the impulse to act in the new way. Eventually, the circumstances that gave rise to the old, unwanted feelings, thoughts, and actions will themselves call out the new ones, which, because they are now stronger than the impulse to have the old ones, will arise without being accompanied by the old ones at all. Once this occurs, you no longer need deliberate effort to feel, think, and act in the new manner, you are huvardking the new ones.
This can readily be used to combat inappropriate rage by simply learning to pair the undesired emotion with a more-desired emotion. For instance, every time you feel rage, anger, or even irritation, try to feel also joy. Just any emotion won't do as well as every other. Since what is desired in this example is to combat inappropriate rage, but not useful rage (such as for defense of yourself or another, or as an aid to hard labor), trying to learn to huvardka calm would be counterproductive. It would also be much more difficult, for rage and calm are as opposed as it is possible for two emotions to be. But joy is more similar to rage in that it is active and energetic, like rage is. This makes learning to huvardka it along with the rage much easier. It would then be a matter of fine-tuning to adjust your instincts so that what you experience is joy and rage together in the right circumstances, with the joy programmed to grow in direct proportion to how out of control the rage is getting.
In time, this will allow the berserk to elevate with a much more balanced set of emotions than pure animal rage, emotions that are still energetic enough to allow for the gangr. The very act of the negative emotions of the gangr getting out of balance will automatically call up a stronger more positive impulse to calm the wildness, while still keeping the energy directed back along useful lines.
Another method of learning huvardka is more concerned with the technical skills of huvardking. (And both methods should be practiced for optimal gain.) This is the attainment of dagaz moments. Dagaz is Old Norse for "twilight", the moment of transition between one state and another. A dagaz moment is the moment that occurs upon first perceiving something. Because all that has occurred is perception, and not enough time has elapsed for any thoughts or feelings to arise in reaction to that perception, the mind hasn't had a chance yet to be wrong about anything.
The reason that most people's actions are a little bit off, and they find themselves missing the coatrack when tossing their coat upon it, and missing the fly ball, and thinking they recognized an old friend when it was nothing more than a stranger is that the mind is a complex, complex place. In order to go through all the steps necessary to actually do, think, or feel something fast enough for it to actually matter (after all, you can't take half an hour to figure out how to catch a fly ball, or recognize a face in a crowd) requires the mind to make a lot of assumptions, guesses, and simplifications and even in the best of circumstances some of these will be wrong. But the mind's understanding of anything in the moment before any of this occurs is flawless, for it is simply perceiving the thing directly as it is.
Learning to instinctively react instantaneously to the dagaz moment of something then will allow you to react to it as it really is, rather than as your mind might catagorize it or describe it, if it were allowed to. (A description, while it can be good, is never the same as the thing itself. The name is not the man. The map is not the territory.) Because there are no conscious or discriminating thoughts attached to this perception, the mind is in a sort of default unitary state with the thing being perceived, for just a moment. Because the reaction is instinctual, the whole mind moves as one in response to whatever it is that is being perceived. (This gives, by the way, a method of learning to attain the gangr or other sorts of unitary state: learning to simply flow from one dagaz moment to the next, without coming back to normal perception. This is mostly a matter of learning sufficient meditative stillness of mind to calm it enough that it does not get distracted. In this way a single dagaz moment itself can also be extended, delaying the corruption of the mind's perception by thought and feeling.)
The dagaz moment is obviously a form of huvardka, but one more easily learned than a lot of other forms, because it can be practiced as an almost purely physical exercise. And because it teaches the same skills used in any form of huvardka, learning it will improve all other huvardka practices.
One of the best ways to learn to attain dagaz moments is practicing throwing small rocks. Simply pick up a rock, face away from your target or close your eyes, and in the instant you turn towards the target or open your eyes to see it, throw the rock. At first no real results will likely be seen, and the acts of seeing and throwing will still be two separate actions. But practice will teach your subconscious mind something, and in time you will automatically come to have the throwing and perceiving become one thing, and you will attain a dagaz moment.
Similarly, but with a partner, you can learn to attain them by catching a ball or something in the moment of perception. Another exercise is practicing stop-cutting. A stop-cut is a technique practiced by some martial artists who work with swords, and is simply cutting at something, even full strength, while stopping a hair's breadth away from the actual target. Note that this means stopping naturally. Pulling back on the swing is not a stop-cut. By making the swing and the looking at the target one thing, one also learns dagaz moment attainment. Another way is to look at the target but once and then swing with the eyes closed.
This exercise can be done with a stick but, whether with stick or sword, care should be exercised, and this probably not be done around other people, as the possibility that you will lose your grip on the sword and send it flying midswing exists.
Of course, another way to work on the problems inherent in the somaferan nature is to simply do enough character work to make yourself a better person, learning why you act the way you do, what things set you off and how, and learning better points of view to cope with these problems. Cultivating humility is an excellent means of coping, for by weakening the ego you are making it less likely to react in anger when its desires are thwarted. Losing your attachment to your ego is to be desired anyways, for it makes the whole process of attaining the unitary state much easier, as the ego is inherently nonunitary. Learning the philosophical maxim that "everything furthers" is another way to combat the problems of somafera, for it teaches the somaferan to light a candle instead of curse the darkness, and instinctively see whatever can be gained out of any situation, instead of focusing on what was lost. Some somaferans would benefit from seeing a psychologist for assistance in this.
Deliberately invoking the state of somafera is a very difficult thing to do. Even those who are born as berserks and such, who are naturally able to enter into such a state, are generally able to do so but rarely, usually only in times of great need. For this reason many traditions of somafera involved an initiation, a ritual designed specifically to put the initiate into a deep somafera state. After this the initiate would more easily be able to deliberately invoke it, simply bying knowing what it feels like.
As the state of somafera usually responds best to real need, the initiation ritual must center around creating an element of real need. Old intiation rituals, such as those practiced by the berserks, or warriors practicing the Heroic Feats, tended to rely on creating real danger, such as fighting a bear alone, or fending off thrown spears. But as need, even genuine need, can be created without so much danger, there is no need for it.
There are different ways to do this. One berserk I know used a prolonged period of solitude and fasting; no food, no water. Another used deep study and intensive martial arts training. Another ended up having a spontaneous initiation forced upon him by being trapped with an enemy for an extended period of time. And a couple, myself included, have used the following ritual, as we felt it offered the likeliest method of producing the strongest response.
Before beginning the ritual I spent two months studying all I could about the berserkergang (my form of practice) and human physiology as well. I also spent this time in extended prayer and meditation. This readied my mind for the upcoming experience, sensitizing it to certain key elements. It left me feeling clear and open and ready for the experience. I recommend it for the intiate. I chose to hold the ritual in an old ghost town, abandoned 350 years ago from fears of the werewolves that legend had it lived amongst the townspeople. The reason I chose this location was two-fold. One was that it was 200 miles away, and the very act of having to travel far to get to it would make it a more effective setting for the ritual. After all, not only do we esttem to lightly that which we gain too cheaply, but we also instinctively place more value on things that have cost us. The other was the atmosphere of the place. Ancient ruins, haunted by dead werewolves... the perfect place to perform such a spell. This was the beginning of attaining the unitary state. Such an atmosphere would call out strong associations in my mind that could be built upon by the later ritual. Similarly would I recommend that care should be taken in selecting location.
The ritual began with an old Slavic spell for becoming a werewolf. The spell required a copper knife to be made, and then stuck into a tree. But making a copper knife is not easy. Even if the initiate eschews forging it, and simply files it down out of copper bar stock, no small amount of effort or small amount of time are involved. And this is the reason for the knife. Over that time strong emotions will come to be felt. Boredom and frustration at the least. Perhaps even pain, as it is easy enough to cut a finger when making a blade. The initiate will grow intimately familiar with the blade, its every nick and warping. For these reasons it becomes a powerful ritual tool. It has become a symbol to the initiate. Just holding the blade, just looking at it will call out all of those emotions from the memory. Actually using it in the ritual will connect the words and acts of the ritual to the emotional energy associated with the knife. No need to think to use it, no need to focus upon it, it thus acts in a way as to increase the power of emotion in the ritual automatically, without effort. In this way does the unitary state start to develop. Now the initiate has, floating around in his or her mind, the emotions and images invoked by the location with the emotions and images centered around the brain. These things begin to merge, to become associated with and confused with each other, after being held in the attention a while. This is simply due to the natural tendencies of the way the brain works. The phase shift to unity has begun.
Next the initiate must find a fallen tree. This requires some small act of looking, which is a physical matter of walking about with the intent to perform this ritual. This improves the readiness of the mind to receive the new experience. Then the initiate must stab the knife into the fallen tree. This act symbolically begins the ritual, and causes the initiate's mind to snap to attention. Then the initiate walks around the tree, looking at the knife. The act of walking raises energy levels in the body and so stimulates the mind as well. This gives energy to those thoughts going through the brain, making them stronger. And because the walking can be made into a wolf-like pacing, the image of the self as a wolf joins the other images in the mind, and benefits from their energy if it is held in the awareness long enough for the thoughts to associate.
While walking the initiate intones the following incantation (preferably using diaphragmmatic breathing):
the sea, on the ocean, on the island, on Bujan,
These words are important to the attaining of the unitary state. The incantation begins by describing a wolf doing exactly what the initiate is doing; approaching a tree. This identifies the initiate with the wolf, a sensation that is unconsciously given more sense of reality by the physical action of walking. Any thought or image associated conceptually with an action the brain automatically assigns a greater sense of reality to. In this way the unitary state deepens. The mind now contains multiple sources of emotion, all beginning to be tied in with the image of the initiate becoming a wolf. The second half of the incantation continues this process. By asking for the aid of the moon in stopping people from harming the wolf, the initiate is subconsciously identifying his sense of safety with that of the wolf's. By casting himself in the light of a thing hunted by humans, the initiate is by implication declaring "I am not human!" The last two lines are a standard element of many incantations, and seal the effects of the ritual in the mind by identifying all that has gone into producing a unitary state of mind with the image of unbending strength and resolve to do this. This part of the ritual is ended by springing three times over the tree. By actually *acting* as a wolf, while speaking such sealing words, the unity of the mind with the self-as-wolf image is made strong and durable.
It is the next part of the ritual that actually triggers the change. The initiate goes to a fire, and casts nine herbs on it, herbs traditionally associated with wolves. (Any nine with the right association will do. This is another ritual tool like the copper knife, for some trouble must be gone to to obtain them.) Then the initiate oaths most strongly to hold his or her hand in the fire until transformed. There will be pain, and screaming (so make sure to hold this ritual far away from others), and a moment of almost irresistable need to pull the hand out of the fire. This is the critical moment. Hold on through this moment, keeping to the state of mind produced by the spell, and the change should be triggered. The unitary state results from the enormous NEED to end the pain, and from the overload of adrenaline in the body, and all this incredible energy rips through the mind, firing its contents into ecstatic super-life. This all taken together prompts the change in physiology that is the characteristic of somafera.
Meditation is the first skill that a practitioner of somefera must master. None of the later skills can be successfully performed without it. It takes, if you have no prior experience with it, quite some practice to get the hang of it, but perseverence will pay off.
First it is necessary to define what meditation is. Commonly it is held to be a form of mental relaxation that brings about a physical and emotional relaxation. But this understanding misses the point. While it is true that mental relaxation is involved, and that it does sometimes bring about emotional and physical relaxation, these are nothing more than details and side effects. The purpose of meditation is to clear the mind, to still the chatter that is omnipresent in most people's brains, even when they are thinking about nothing in particular. When the chatter is stilled, and the mind is silent, the aforementioned relaxation does occur. But this is just setting the stage for what is to follow: a greater focusing of the mind that occurs because the mind is clear.
When there is nothing to distract the attention the minute signals that comprise the subconscious mind can be heard with greater clarity. There are a variety of reasons for desiring this. It can bring greater awareness of one's surroundings, bringing small details to the attention of the conscious mind. It can be useful in retrieval of old memories. It can be useful in introspection and self-analysis. It is critical in the art and science of attaining visions. But whatever goal is sought, the thing meditation does is to bring what is hidden within to light. This has unpleasant elements as well as pleasant ones. Meditation is actually supposed to make things bad, in order that you might learn and grow. Meditation is a tool, not a goal.
While meditation takes time and effort to learn, it is pretty easy to describe how to go about it. First of all, make sure you will be undistrubed for the period of meditation. Make sure you are sitting comfortably. Lighting incense will likely be of help, as lighting candles might be. The important thing is to set a mood of calmness, stillness, relaxation. Once everything seems right, close your eyes. Let your thoughts slow down and stop. Become an empty vessel. At first thoughts will continually arise, and will prove to be quite distracting. Do not allow them distract you. Do not focus on them. Do not follow the thoughts. By the same token, do not fight them, do not struggle against them, for this is simply generating more thoughts. Allow them to rise, and allow them to pass away, and do not interact with them. In time, the thoughts will become fewer. Also distracting are sensory impressions, such as the myriad itches that inevitably spring up whenevr you try to meditate. As difficult as it seems, they must be dealt with in the same way as the distracting thoughts.
The first stage that is reached with meditation is an empty mind. After this, with continued practice and development, is becoming unattached to the ego, the self. This sounds similar to the empty mind, but there is a subtle yet important difference. With the empty mind, there are no thoughts. With an unattached ego, there aren't even the basic causes of, or desires for thoughts. This is a much purer state of mind than simple emptiness. It will therefore be not only of benefit in the above mentioned endeavors, but it carries other benefits as well.
There is one particular kind of meditation that is of most use to the practitioner of somafera. It has different names in different times and places, but has no commonly used term in modern times. But there is a word that fits, and was used in times past to describe such spiritual practices. That term is "possession".
Possession is the state of mind/spirit wherein the mind has become empty of everything except one object of attention or contemplation. This object can be anything; a table, an idea, a spirit, anything. The second requirement is that the ego be entirely absent, which is to say there must be no sense of self. When these things are so, sustained contemplation (especially accompanied by some simple, repetitive ritual) will result in possession, where the sense of self becomes entirely replaced by the object in question.
This means different things depending on what the object of contemplation was. If it was a simple object, like a stone, then there will be a sense of "becoming one" with the stone. Every detail of it will be known, experienced, at the same time, as one experiences one's own body or self. If it was an idea the idea becomes the whole of one's being. It becomes understood thoroughly, as by an expert. If it was a spirit the self is replaced by the spirit's self, the mind and nature are replaced by the spirit's mind and nature (though interpreted or filtered through the practitioner's mind). The use this state of mind has for the practitioner of somafera is that this is the core element of the practice, that one seeks to become possessed by one's animal nature. (Or spirit, depending on one's terminology.)
The final important state of meditation to the practitioner of somafera is one for which our culture has no name. There is no perception of anything. There is no self present to perceive. This sounds like simple emptiness of thought, or unattachment to ego, and many who learn meditation mistake these things for this type of meditative state. But it is not these things. Emptiness of thought means there is still that which can contain thought. Unattachment to ego still means that there is something which can be unattached. The best way to describe it is to describe how it is obtained. It is most easily obtained through a state of possession, where the mind, possessed of one directional awareness burns itself out, and even this is gone. There is nothing left, not even a world, a sense of space. This state of mind has use for the somafera practitioner who wants to develop his or her ability to the fullest potential.
Let me begin this with a disclaimer. I am simply describing my own experiences with using pain to produce altered states of consciousness. I am not advocating its use, and everything I describe herein can be very dangerous - always be safe and careful if you decide to pursue these practices.
A common element of many somafera type practices around the world is the use of pain to thrust people into a highly elevated state. For instance, worshippers at Kataragama in Sri Lanka have their cheeks pierced with large metal rods, and some Sufis pound knife-points into each other's heads during ritual. Reacting to pain is one of our most basic instincts - it makes the adrenaline surge, the heart beat faster. It can also cause the body to release endorphins, which cause a "high" feeling - like that often experienced by people getting tattooed. All of these things can help trigger elevation. But there is another element - we are naturally evolved to avoid pain, to remove our hand from the hot stove. Mastering that instinct, overpowering it, going towards the pain instead of away from it, can be a powerful act as well.
From my experience, there are two basic ways to approach using pain to induce and/or strengthen elevation. The first is to rev yourself up - tense the muscles, growl, yell, focus all your energy and power into overcoming the pain. The second is to relax into it, let your sense of yourself fade away so that you no longer perceive what is happening to your body. These are similar to the two kinds of unitary state - the intense focus and union with one thing, and the dissolution of ego into Everything. Each can be useful, depending on your objectives, and also on your personality and practice methods. I have found it the most beneficial to alternate between the two.
There are many levels of pain one can experiment with, with different degrees of difficulty and danger. I think it's best to start small and work your way up, to test out your limits and slowly push them. I have worked mostly with temporary piercing and burning. You can purchase one-use, sterilized needles online, in a variety of gauges. If used properly and disposed of safely, they can be a very useful tool. It is a good idea to learn a little about anatomy and study some of the literature on "play piercing" to know which areas are dangerous to pierce and which are safe, but still rather painful. Then it's just a matter of experimentation. I have found that it is also a good training exercise to have another person you trust blindfold you and pierce you, so you don't know where or when it's coming - this teaches you to resist sudden, unexpected pain. Controlled burning is another tool which causes pain a little differently, and therefore teaches you different things, although in the beginning stages it may cause quite a bit of scarring.
So what can you learn from these techniques? Well, first of all you will slowly learn how to elevate to resist pain, which is not only useful in many situations in daily life and in training, but will also increase your overall ability to elevate. You will learn control over your body. You will have an opportunity to practice self-healing, as these methods will indoubtably result in some bleeding, blistering, scarring, etc. You may get some insight into the different kinds of unitary states. And over time, you may develop some rather extraordinary abilities - to not feel pain at all, and even to not show physical damage.
So you have just broken through and elevated for the first time. What lies ahead? To a certain extent this varies greatly between one practitioner and another. But there are certain things that are common experiences to a majority of those who go through this.
One of the first things for most people is fear. Most people are unaccustomed to ever giving up even a fraction of their conscious self control, and for them the process of elevation feels like they have been "taken over" by their bodies, or by their unconscious minds, or by the animal within, and it is for them a highly unpleasant experience, because of the worry that things might happen to them, or that they might do things, that they do not want. But this fear is felt less by those who have had experience with some sort of spiritual or religious art which regularly involves the loss of conscious experience and the obliteration of the ego. And in any event, practice with the gangr will bring about an understanding which lessens that fear.
For most, a period of time will follow the first breakthrough wherein everything is different, absolutely everything. The practitioner might feel that he or she is always elevated, at least a little. The senses might have changed, and be a little sharper, and this makes all of one's reactions feel a little "off". There is often a period of feeling that everything is unreal, or plastic. It will be very easy to slip back into elevation, whether deliberately or accidentally. The practitioner will feel very clear-minded, and very closely in contact with spiritual elements. Some find this time quite pleasant, others unpleasant. Its depth and duration will correspond to the intensity of the change the breakthrough brought about. This change is brought about a rearrangement of the mind brought about by the breakthrough. New lines of thought become possible, new associations as well, old hangups and inhibitions are gone, and the cumulative effect of these is a perhaps subtle, but definite change in personality and nature.
Along with this sometimes comes another change. There might be a withdrawal from the rest of the world. In some this might be slight. In others this will be more severe, and sometimes it will sever most relationships and ties one has to society. This is because of the change in personality and the standards one has.
But the changes in mind and inner nature set off by the first breakthrough can only go so far. There will almost inevitably be a backlash to all of this rapid change, these new abilities. The newly opened mind is a double-edged sword that not only releases those parts of the inner nature that make elevation possible, it releases all parts of the inner nature. Eventually the truly deeply buried portions of the subconscious will make their way to the surface of the mind. What this means to the individual practitoner will depend to a great extent on that practitioner. But it will mean one thing to virtually every practitioner; that practitioner will suddenly no longer be able to elevate, or at best will no longer be able to elevate all that well.
This is because those buried parts of the subconscious do not mesh well, either with each other or with the conscious mind. They have never been thought about, or specifically related to. They have not been learned from. They have not been dealt with. This is, of course, because they have been buried. But now they must be dealt with, for they are so noisy and distracting, they introduce so much error into the practice of elevating, that they make it difficult if not impossible. This "out of contact" period will be quite distressing and even frightening for some. The longer it goes on, the easier it will be for the practitioner to feel that he or she has "lost it" entirely, and that the original elevation must have been a fluke. And this period can last for months.
But this is a necessary stage to learning the practice. It should be remembered that not only is this all new, but that the practitioner is also all new, like a newborn. This is the stage analagous to the newborn's learning to walk. The initial elevation took place in part because of the phenomenon of beginner's luck, and now the practitioner must learn to stand and take steps on his or her own.
There are many ways for the practitioner to learn to overcome this. In one way or another, the practitioner will develop techniques, certain things to do that will ameliorate the problems. The range of possible techniques is quite wide. On the one hand, they may involve self-examination and character development. After all, the problem comes from the nature of the unitary state itself, wherein all that is in the inner nature is utilized. Subconscious blocks, inhibitions, and desires normally unable to affect anything in normal conscious mind operation are significant factors during unitary mind operation, for all that is within is used. Simply doing enough self improvement by character work to remove these inhibitions, attachments, etc. can greatly improve one's somafera state. This approach was utilized to a certain extent by the ancient berserker brotherhoods, who had an iron-clad rule against any berserk in the brotherhood speaking even a single word of fear, or doubt, or negativity.
On the other hand the techniques may less involve character development than specific mental/physical techniques that are designed to shift around the way mind and body operate from one way to another quickly enough that the subconscious problems are continually sidestepped. These techniques may also simply involve learning to be meditatively still so well that these problems roll over the practitioner like water off a duck's back. Techniques also may involve simple classical conditioning, wherein some physical factor is used to trigger the gangr, and simple repetition makes the mind so receptive to that trigger that it outweighs any of the problems stirred up from the subconscious.
But there's a Catch-22 here. Every action of the conscious mind, every deliberate intent, generates ripples in the mind. For every action there is a reaction, for every cause there is an effect. These techniques can do wonders for reducing the amount of subconscious interference but they also generate further subconscious interference. Techniques are necessary for the practice of the art. Without technique, elevation quickly dissipates. But with them blocks are set in the road. For this reason, the practitioner must learn when to put aside the techniques, when to let go of the practice.
Training in the use of these techniques trains the subconscious mind to act along these lines. It trains the hypothalamus to use them as instinctive reactions. This has two benefits. The short term one is that after applying the techniques in an elevation ritual for a certain period of time one has got the mind into an appropriate groove, and then the techniques can be set aside, and the subconscious mind will naturally follow them without intent (for a time). The longer term benefit is that these instincts can be so conditioned that eventually one does not ever need to use the techniques, the subconscious nature will simply follow them.
One can easily see from this that the more one becomes free from attachment to the ego the more easily the state of somafera is entered into. This is because the ego is a conscious attachment, and generates subconscious echoes that interfere with elevation. The more that the practitioner frees him or herself from the ego in more and more fundamental ways, the more the practitioner comes to be his or her true self.
Somafera is the art and science of transcending one's own limitations through alteration of physiological and spiritual state. It is experienced most often as becoming transformed from one's own normal self into a very different self. So obviously any practitioner of somafera must cultivate letting go any attachments he or she has to their normal, usual, or current selves. After all, how can you transcend what you are clinging to?
The gangr is not the only form of somafera, and certainly not the only sort of unitary state. There are related practices in other traditions that will be of great use to the somaferan who desires to eliminate all clinging to his or her mundane self. (Or any self.) One such is a form of unitary state that results in psychological transformation. Unlike the gangr, which focuses mostly upon the body and the outer environment, this unitary state focuses upon the internal environment in such a way as to induce a radical transformation of the way the practitioner thinks and feels about certain things. It works along the same principles as any unitary state does, by focusing enough of the mind along the same lines long enough to effect a deep dissociative state which solidifies the focus. This means that the change in personality can become permanent, or nearly so, as the result of a single effort, rather than as the result of months or years of training in new habits.
Though in truth these sorts of changes in personality are rarely actually permanent. They will in general act as if they were a permanent and long-term part of the practitioner's personality, even the dominant part, for hours, days, weeks, months even, but then disintigrate. However, on occasion the change is actually permanent. In any event, repeated applications of this technique will still make the changes permanent in much less time than learning a new habit will.
One such technique of this type is sometimes called the IOB ritual. IOB stands for Identify, Objectify, Banish. It is a unitary state obtained from focusing upon a certain portion of one's personality. First the practitioner selects a part of his personality that he wishes to do away with. That part should be thought about in depth. What makes it the way it is? What features does it have? What does it cause you to do, and in what circumstances? A name should be given it, that is symbolic of its nature. A visualization should be constructed of it, with features symbolic of its nature. A person wishing to get rid of sloth, for instance, might visualize their own body with flabby useless muscles and a dull, vacant expression. This is the Identify portion of the ritual. This portion of the self should then be used an as object of ritual focus, and a unitary state form from it. If done properly, the part of the practitioner's own self that is so focused upon should then appear to the practitioner like a separate or near-separate entity. (Connected to the practitioner, perhaps, by a silver cord.) This is the Objectify portion of the ritual. Once this is done, the practitioner must attack the other self, and destroy it. Severing the cord with a ritual knife might be a good method, if such a visualization is employed. And this is the Banish portion of the ritual. The practitioner must attack the objectified portion of his spirit with real rejection. Anger may help. Martial attitude may be appropriate. This attack must become a new object of ritual focus. This will result in a unitary state formed from the concept of destroying a certain portion of the personality, removing it from the mind entirely.
The manner in which this functions is very simple. The unitary state involves the loss of the self and its absorption into a different sense of reality. The mind, the memory, treats memories of this state as no less real than physical experiences. Indeed, if the unitary state is powerful enough to have that "realer than real" feeling, then the mind will treat it even more seriously than "real" physical events. This means that if it experienced summoning a part of the personality up and destroying it, it will act as if that part of the personality is indeed really and totally gone.
That this practice can be dangerous should be obvious. In a way, it is like psychotherapy with a chainsaw. It just hacks a part of the self away without necessarily any real knowledge of the consequences of that action. And because the practitioner is internal to the changes, if something goes wrong, he or she is often going to be unable to see it. Such sudden radical changes can even cause problems (and benefits) that don't surface until months or years later. Like any powerful tool, it is supposed to be used with care. (Credit goes to Donald Michael Kraig for this form and name of this ritual, in his book Modern Magick.)
There is a parallel practice called fusion. It is the reverse of this practice. Here the Identification is of traits the practitioner wishes to aquire, the Objectification is the unitary state where those traits are perceived as a whole, real thing, often in the form of a spirit, and then instead of banishment there is Fusion, where the practitioner attains a unitary state with the visualization of merging, becoming one with the new spirit.
I think what works best is to perform both rituals together, as one. The IOBF. This engages more of the mind into the experience, making the changes stronger than with either technique alone.
That this can be used to eliminate attachment to the self should be obvious. The IOB portion can be used for the practitioner's traits that tie him or her to their concept of their own selves. That make him feel that "I am me". It would be possbile to just use one's current self as the object of ritual focus, and eliminate it, and simply let the new self form around whatever the practitioner's circumstances need it to be.
The fusion portion could be done most easily for berserks (meaning Odinist somaferans) by fusing with Odin as Svipal, or with those parts of one's own nature that are like Svipal, depending on what works best for the practitioner. Svipal is one of Odin's many heiti, or nicknames. Each name refers to a different personality, a different self of Odin's. Svipal simply means "The Changeable", and refers to his mercurial nature. Odin has no permanent self. His myths quite clearly show him ever-changing, adapting always to what his situations require of him. By having no permanent self he is free to become any of the myriad selves he can be. So when he needs inspiration he can become Odhr, whose name means inspiration. When he needs to fight he can become Sigfather, the victorious. When he needs to travel he becomes the hardened traveller Gangleri, accustomed to the road. When his advice is asked he can become Gagnrath, he who gives wise counsel. He does not do things halfway. When a task needs doing he wholly gives himself to that task, utterly gives himself to it, so that his very nature changes. In this manner he is always at his strongest, wisest, most powerful, most competent.
It should be remembered that this is not really a loss of self. It is a loss of the concept one has of oneself. But the map is not the territory. The berserk who fuses with Svipal-nature in a way becomes more himself than ever. He becomes any and all of his past selves at need. His 20 year old self, his six year old self. He can become the Lover, the Family Man, the Fighter, the Problem-Solver, anything at all that he has done or imagined, even his Ideal Self. And this certainly seems to me like being more his real self than ever before.
Fusing with Svipal-nature will bring out that same mercurial nature in the berserk. It will enable easy elevation, for no work needs to be done to leave the mundane state. It will by the same token enable the most rapid elevation, an invaluable skill for the fighting berserk.
One very good image to use for fusing with Svipal-nature is the breath. Ever notice how very like a life in miniature each breath is? It begins, coming out of nowhere, and grows greater and greater until, peaking, it is let out and begins its decline into death. To experience this aspect of breathing, to experience a life in every breath, would be to experience Svipal-nature. To simply and only be aware utterly of what one is doing is to be completely shaped by one's circumstances. The subconscious mind is a very simple, direct thing. Lacking more complicated instructions from the conscious mind, when confronted with anything it simply selects the memories or instincts that are most connected with what it is confronted with. Your subconscious mind is not stupid. It remembers. It knows what has worked in the past, and what hasn't. It contains the deepest parts of human nature, so it also is in contact with the superego, the ideal self, the best standards one has. It will instinctively select the best personality and instincts from memory if you just let it, and do not confuse it with expectations, hopes, and fears.
So when inhaling, immerse yourself utterly in your present circumstances. Do not react to them in any way, including trying to stop reactions from occuring. Feel that you are actually breathing in the world around you, and that that is destroying you, pushing you aside, crowding you out. When exhaling, exhale not just your breath, but feel you are exhaling your will, your intent, out into the world with that breath, to reshape it.
To tie the imagery of taking the world inside you with your breath is a very powerful ritual focus, because it so accurately mimics what you know breathing in to do: take the air and whatever's floating in it from outside your body and bring it in. This powerfully reinforces the image of bringing the world inside yourself, for the subcosncious mind isn't too picky, and will confuse inner and outer concepts. This reinforces the notion of your self being destroyed, and leaves one's sense of the world as the dominating factor in shaping the mind.
The exhalation works the same way. The subconscious associates exhalaing with removing things inside the body, or self, to the outside. This reinforces the feeling that one's will dominates all, as it is being expelled from the self to overwhelm everything. But the practitioner has just shaped his own self to fit the outside world. So the will or intention he exhales is perfectly shaped to effect the outside world. If the practitioner is a berserk in a fight, such inhalation will eliminate himself to let himself be shaped completely by what his opponent is doing. His response, on the exhalation, will be instinctively the best countermeasure, and having thought and breath be one encourages acting upon that thought to be one with thinking it to. This is a dagaz moment.
Of course, to be Svipal one must not only restrict the sense of dying and being reborn and dying again to just every breath. Every time the practitioner finishes a whole thought, or feeling, or reaction, or feels aware that he is doing something, he should die, and become totally absorbed into it. This may involve holding the breath, or breathing very shallowly or slowly for a time.
Using the breath (and all other time intervals the practitioner is aware of) is an excellent image for the IOBF. It encompasses both the banishing and the fusion. The phrase "a life in every breath" would be an excellent addition to the visualizations. The experience of this unitary state, the IOBF for becoming Svipal, is like dying and being reborn as an amorphous, mercurial shapechanger with no real form. It is a rather radical shift in perspective, usually. And I recommend that it form the backbone of any berserk's training.
The IOBF can be made maximally effective by powering it with a gangr. Begin by entering a gangr. That way when the rest is performed, it will be performed with as much power as possible, and will be as effective as possible. For this reason, the actual body of the riual should contain some symbolic death and rebirth that involves actual hardship, and pushing the practitioner to his or her very edge. This will not only make the experience seem much more like a real death, it will also make the change easier. (Easier to change selves when standing at the edge of the current self.) The way I often do it is to work out physically first, to the point where I am exhausted and maybe even a little injured. (Pulled muscles and such.) Then I elevate again and again, and work out an image and name for the Identify sections through inspiration. Then I work out again, with the objects I wish to banish and fuse with as the objects of ritual focus. This second workout, started from a weak and injured state (sleep deprivation helps too) easily pushes me over the edge in the unitary state I am in, and makes me feel like I am being utterly destroyed. This makes the whole death, and hence the whole rebirth, all the more powerful and convincing. So my first object of ritual focus is my current self, and I banish that. I then fuse with Svipal and "a life in every breath". The exhaustionand strain from the second workout feels like it's killing my current self. My focus on utter focus on every breath then automatically causes Svipal-nature to fill the void left by myself.
Nothing is a greater part of martial art than breathing (according to Bruce Lee), so this also means that in martial art I am constantly reinforcing Svipal-nature when breathing in the gangr. This is why, while all time intervals the berserk is aware of should end in death and rebirth, why all time intervals should contain total absorption, the breath itself is one that is particularly stressed.
The breath IOBF can also be used to enter the gangr entirely though dagaz moments. By becoming totally absorbed in one's surroundings, and having it least for the space of a breath before moving on greatly ecourages the dagaz moment. The practitioner has only a moment of time in which to become one with his environment, only looks at everything for a breath-moment. (The next breath may accompany a view of the same environment, but the practitioner is new-born, and approaches it as if for the first time.) This does not give the practitioner time to react to or think about what he sees much. This encourages the dagaz moment, the default unitary state, to occur. By doing this witth every breath the practitioner moves from one dagaz moment to the next, sliding easily and effortlessly along the dagaz network, so to speak: the experience of the world as a series of dagaz moments. Doing this for long enough encourages the unitary state to be entered.
For a long time the other somaferans I am in contact with on the forum and I have equated the wod-based somafera states such as the berserkergang with the Buddhist state of positive samadhi, or one-pointed awareness. So we were also aware of the further state of pure samadhi, or zero-pointed awareness. We had always borrowed terms from different spiritual traditions to describe things we discovered or experienced, such as wod and chi energies, but were growing leery of doing so for fear of building blind spots and mistaken understandings into our growing lore. So we coined a term for it for our own use, and chose "helblindi". It means "death-blind" in Old Norse, and refers to popular folklore of many countries, including the Nordic ones, that the dead are still and quiet, and see all.
We had discussed the helblindi state many times before, and still found we knew very little about it. We knew of its existence scientifically as well as historically, as the deafferentation (shutting off) of the whole OAA, whereas the gangr deafferents only the left half. We had, from various personal experiences, philosophies, and guesses, come up with certain descriptions of it. "It is like a great darkness," was a common simile. "It is a feeling of becoming one with the world/universe," was another, though perhaps less common. "It is a state where the mind has ceased acting, and no thoughts move" was still another. Thus it is taken as an opposite counterpart to the wod gangr, like chi energy is to wod energy.
But there seem to be some serious problems with these descriptions of it. Let's look at these descriptions in more detail. If all thoughts cease, then what is the difference between this state, which is supposed to be beyond the wod gangr, and the mindlessness of a rock? Isn't the darkness this state seems to engender just another form of ignorance and blindness? How is this superior to the wod state? The description of feeling like becoming one with the whole world also leaves something to be desired. We know what the wod gangr can do with its uberfocus upon one thing. So why, if this unity of self and object can do so much, do the helblindi states we have attained with this feeling of becoming one with the world not seem to make any especial difference over the uberfocus? Why can we still be surprised in a helblindi state, as some of us have commented happens? Why can't this state always respond freely to the environment? Shouldn't it?
We have explained the sense of simultaneous darkness and becoming one with the world as the feelings of the loss of the self and its replacement with the sense of the outside world. But actually, this simultaneous sensation of becoming one with the world and being engulfed by darkness seems to mean that this is, in fact, not actually the helblindi state. Think about it. The wod state already has a loss of awareness of the surrounding world that corresponds to the heightened awareness upon the object of focus. (In other words, the more focused we are upon something in the wod state, the less aware we are of everything else.) So this thing we have been describing as the helblindi state is in fact no better than the wod state. Helblindi is supposed to be radically different, and superior. So this cannot be it. Instead, this must be described as a state of false helblindi, nothing more than a wod state focused upon oblivion, thus seeming to have many of the same characteristics we would expect of the helblindi state.
Realizing these things, I sought to find out what the true helblindi state would be like. Through much research and practice I concocted a technique for entering that state. Another initiation ritual. I did this through studying techniques of other cultures, medical science, and simply applying logic to my understanding of the shortcomings of our current ideas about helblindi as described above. From these I came up with a list of things that would be signs I was still only in a false state of helblindi.
The primary factor for determining if a state is true helblindi (the death of the self and total merging with the whole of everything) should be awareness. The practitioner in this state will be incredibly aware of everything; in his or her immediate environment, in their internal environment, and in the world as a whole. Nothing can catch the practitioner by surprise in this state.
This awareness, as it is a product of a unitary state, should give rise to another feature of this state: that it is a state of "not one, not two". There is no discriminating thought at all in this state (for if there was, the whole self would not be shut down), and thus there isn't even a conception of being one with everything. Everything, lacking any perception of independent selfness on the part of the practitioner flows into everything else, and everything is seen from all angles simultaneously. Thus things apart from the practitioner's body are both seen as separate from the practitioner and as one with him (or her). Or, more accurately, there is neither a sense of oneness nor of separateness, and there is also a sense of being both one and separate. Our previous sense of oneness with everything itself should have been a clue that we really weren't, that we were merely one with a concept of everything. Not even in the same ballpark.
And this leads to an excellent way to determine that a state is definitely not the true helblindi state, and this is if it feels like anything. If there is any feeling like anything at all, it cannot be the real helblindi, for the feeling is a part of the mind wasting its efforts in observing itself instead of actually perceiving. It means that not all of the mind is unified. Thus the true helblindi state is where neither body nor mind remains itself and you are pure and clear as the sky, neither scattered nor oblivious, but if you feel yourself pure and clear as the sky, neither scattered nor oblivious, and you know that neither body nor mind remain themselves then this is only deluded thinking.
It should be noted that in this state there is a distinct change in the nature of the mind. (Note I said "change in the nature of the mind", NOT "change in the feeling or perception of the nature of the mind".) Most people go through their lives with a feeling that they "live in" their heads, having been taught all their lives that the brain causes the sense of self. But because the brain is profoundly affected by the functioning of the body, the whole body can be seen as taking part in thought and feeling, and therefore the self can truthfully be described as distributed through the whole body. In the true helblindi state this should be realized at an instinctual level, and the self seems to reside spread through the whole body. (That is, seems in retrospect.) Because of this, the functions of the body seem to take part in the instincts and responses, the subconscious "thinking" that occurs in that state, as if one's heart and stomach are capable of rational thought, for example.
And more than this, one's self should not really be confined to the body, either. There should also be something that in retrospect seems to be the rest of the world, or parts of it, taking part in the process of thinking and feeling, just like the body is described to above. The reason for this is, of course, the lack of inherent individual identity. It can seem, for instance, that music playing nearby will actually be causing the practitioner to play Tetris with increased skill, like the music is adding to making the decisions involved in the game more accurate, and faster. If this were not true, then the mind would not be unified really, and flowing freely. These two things mean that every process of the mind takes part in every other process.
With the helblindi state the moment you feel it or know it, it is already lost.
Also it should be remembered that the real helblindi state should be effortless, requiring no striving or effort to maintain. It is like pure calm abiding in your meditative state. It is seeing everything like you do sometimes when you first awaken, and have no names for anything, and see everything without thinking about it or conceptualizing it, see everything in a pure and immediate way. If a state lacks ease it cannot be the true helblindi state.
It is very important to remember not to confuse purity and clarity resulting from the physical body being at peace for the true helblindi state. Also, do not mistake accidental momentary purity for the real thing. These things depend on fortuitous chance arrangements of mind, body, and external stimuli, and not only can they not be counted on again in the future, but the benefits such things confer are not necessarily that strong or useful. It is very easy to stumble into such states. Try it for yourself: run far, or do an exhausting workout, then have someone come up to you and say "good, you've already made it, you're home," and you'll find that your mind will feel solid and pure, and there will be a feeling of enlightenment. Confusing this for the real purity and enlightenment of the true helblindi state is exactly the sort of mistake to guard against.
It is very easy to mistake a mere clear and empty mind for helblindi, but such a mind is lost when tired, and is easily angered or annoyed at obstacles and distractions. It can cause great eruptions of temper, and has no vital energy. It tends to a stable grey emotional state, where most highs and lows are lost. This is not a true tranformation of physiology, it is merely a false conception that is easy to make when pursuing these practices and studies. A pure consciousness may seem like a great thing, and may seem to impart great wisdom, but it is like viewing the sky through a skylight: it may seem clear, but it is not the whole sky.
The true helblindi state cannot be found in seeking, for seeking is a deliberate intentional action, utilizing discriminating thought. Waiting to see if the desired state arises is just as bad, for it too is a form of discriminating thought, even if it seems more clever in that it eliminates intentional action. It is necessary to learn to put your effort into performing your practices without giving thought to the results.
The very next step beyond the ability to function without seeking or waiting is the capability of functioning purely by reflex and instinct, which must be an important feature of the true helblindi state. Huvardka.
The false versions of this state tend to be oblivious to some extent or other. This can range from a sense of losing the sense of self or the world and then being swallowed up in utter oblivion, like dying or falling into a coma, to having many of the qualities mentioned above yet with some particular "blind spot". Merely being pure and alert, while not being aware of anything, is not a true helblindi state.
The true helblindi must be when you neither scatter in confusion nor sink down into oblivion. However when you are aware that you are sinking into oblivion or scattering in confusion then it is neither oblivion nor confusion, but helblindi. Whether or not a certain state is a unitary state is whether or not you are aware, for is not awareness unity of mind coupled with free flowing thought?
Even if the state is aware and not scattered or oblivious, if it lacks instinctive drive to tranform the mind then it is not the true helblindi state. This instinctive drive is not the intentionality of the conscious mind, it is instead the intentionality of what some Buddhists call "the body born from intent", and what the ancient Norse called the "hamr".
It is also not a true helblindi state if there are within it desires for one thing and not another. These involve some form of modelling, of separating a part of the mind from the rest, and so are nonunitary. Note that this does not mean that in a helblindi state you are immobile and incapable of action. It is just that action in this state is caused purely by reflex and instinct, not out of desire. You simply act according to your true inherent nature.
Rather a lot of negative indicators, not a lot of positive ones. But this seemed to me to give enough to go off of to start designing a ritual that might get me there. What I came up with was to begin by entering a wod gangr, and to make it as pure as possible and as calm as possible (meaning not a non-rage state, but one that required minimal effort to maintain and control). Then I followed the following steps:
The practitioner must contemplate the mind's lack of inherent independent existence. The more detail the better, in general, but the thoughts must stop nowhere. No matter how awful, fascinating, beautiful, or boring things, thoughts, feelings, and experiences are, do not turn your attention towards them. They will arise and pass away naturally. Do not fight them. Do not follow them. Once this contemplation has been occuring awhile a sense of the mind's lack of inherent existence will appear. Then the practitioner must take this sense and use it as the object of meditative focus. This is not at all easy, as it turns out. I think it is one of the most challenging forms of meditation there is. The practitioner must have a very firm grasp, intellectually, on the concept of the lack of inherent existence of the mind, and must be able to maintain focus on a very nebulous concept and sensation.
When the time seems right, if you will imagine the will symbolized as a sword and the attempt at entering helblindi a battle, then it is time to put aside the sword. Time to stop deliberate action and discriminating thought. Time to stop trying, and let the building momentum coast. If it is sufficient, it will continue along the lines you have set up and cause the true helblindi state to occur.
To truly put aside the sword of the will, to end all deliberate action and discriminating thought, one must be careful of certain things. These things are habits of thought and feeling that must be deliberately given up, sacrificed to make the true helblindi state occur. One is rank ostentation, the gross desire to appear powerful, wonderful, wise, whatever, either for your own sake or that of another. Another is the more pedestrian form of catering to your ego, which is desiring to do well and succeed, even for good reasons, like the desire for self improvement. Even if rank ostentation is done away with, impulses or desires to succeed can still be present, causing an expectant, watching, waiting, seeking state of mind, which is nonunitary. A third is the subtler forms of ego, such as an even momentary feeling of pride when something you do succeeds, or even a momentary feeling of shame when something you do fails. Ego is worse than useless, it is an image of the self that is separate from the true self, and the mind cannot be unified when dominated by ego.
In addition to these, it is necessary to put aside all feelings of power, strength, ability, or doing well. These too are conceptualizations, habitual ones to most people who are used to checking up on how they seem to be doing all the time. The mind is unified when being powerful, fragmented when feeling powerful. For this reason it is well to cultivate something of a sense of humility.
Rational thought and deliberate action must be surrendered. All technique, all exercises of will, must be ceased.
Discriminating thought must be surrendered. Just be easy and open, and ready to react naturally to everything. See everything you do as when you first awake, and have no names for anything, and have made no decisions. When knowing establishes dualistic (subject/object) views, it is the cause of ignorant and deluded thoughts. What is desired is for knowing to establish no dualistic views.
The sexual urges must be purified. These means different things in different traditions. In some it is necessary to so abstain from all sexual contact and thought that the urges either never arise and distract the mind (as they will be prone to in a powerful unitary state, as they are powerful emotions and all emotions are active) or so that they are transformed into some other emotion. Other traditions aver feeding the sexual urges, making them grow, and using the power to turn towards the fetch-wife, the Anima. But either way they are purified, they must be purified so that they encourage or allow unification with the spiritual, and do not scatter the mind in confusion.
We had, in past conversations, hypothesized that since in the case of helblindi the posterior superior parietal lobe was fully shut of, and in the state of wod only the left half is shut off, it must not just be a deeper or different feeling gangr, but it must involve a truly different transformation, with a different nature and different benefits. This idea was supported by Buddhist writings that talked of positive samadhi and samadhi, states analagous to wod and helblindi, as being utterly different levels of mind, and implied they each involved a separate physiological transformation. So all in all, it seemed like true helblindi should be a second elevation, a second transformation, on top of the first. The initiation I took was designed to trigger it by putting myself in a situation where my safety depended on having not just the heightened reflexes of the wod state, but an open and unhindered mind, unity with all that was around me, not just a single focus, such as distinguished the helblindi state from the wod.
The initiation took place over three days. I spent that whole time, every minute I was awake, either in study, meditation, or training. Training was of various sorts: elevating with no specific physical focus to turn it upon; training my reflexes, huvardka, and psychetachia with video games such as Breakout, Missle Command, and Centipede; and normal physical training such as pushups, squat jumps, HIIT, etc. wearing 50 pounds of weighted clothing. During this period I started gaining much greater control over psychetachia. And I also started having flashes of another state as well, what I came to realize was the second elevation. Like a car trying to start, and flaring briefly into life and dying again.
It all really came together at the end of the third day of the initiation. Then I hung six knives from the ceiling, at various levels, so that they would strike at my heart, stomach, eyes, and so forth. I trained myself through normal means, in the gangr, to the point of exhaustion. Then I applied the techniques I had figured out for entering the true helblindi state. And I set the knives swinging and stepped into the center of the circle of knives and applied the technique I hoped would effect the new state. The need for the great huvardka required to keep from getting injured or killed, and to keep all the knives moving, and prevent them from tangling up in each other, and the stillness engendered by my meditative state, the intellectual realizations I'd had, and the overwhelming of my attention triggered a new state.
I can't say what it was like, for it wasn't like anything, as all of me was simply aware, and had no time for thoughts or feelings. So my descriptions are of what the state seemed like in retrospect. It was like a perpetual Warfetter, but without the effort and revving up that usually requires. In fact, the state was completely effortless and relaxed. That is not to say that it was not raging. It was just a free-flowing, calm rage, if that makes any sense. It was a state of seeing everything as you do sometimes upon first awakening: no names for anything, no conception of what anything is or does. My actions were all pure reaction, unhindered by thought or doubt. Immediate. It was like my mind was not just spread through my whole body, but though the whole world. I could not be hurt by the knives because they moved me in the right way to avoid them. Like they were thinking for me. Like they were me. It was like we were not one, and also not two, for we were separate, and so I could dodge them and we were one, because they moved me, I did not move myself.
This state also brought extreme, rapid healing. I had badly injured my knee earlier, and it healed up without the least effort, nor has it troubled me since. It also brought being simultaneously aware of both the mundane and spirit worlds. The energy drain was enormous. I felt like I was dying afterwards.
My awareness was broad, and encompassed everything, even while focusing on one thing. After this experience I've had several experiences where, in this state, I tried to heal myself and had a powerful awareness of what seemed to be my body in the injured area on a near cellular level (visionary thing), and was able to give very specific instructions in repairing the damage. When this happened my healing was much faster even than usual for the wod state.
I only scratched the surface of the potential of this state, I believe. I cannot be said to have really mastered it in any sense. I have only entered it a few times since this time, though I have not been trying to very hard, in order to avoid the paradox of trying to unify from the basis of striving and desire. But the fact that it requires special preparations still, and comes but infrequently means my state must still have impurities. But even so I think this level has far more potential than the wod state. Indeed, it seems to have all of the advantages and fewer of the drawbacks. It will take much study and practice to really use it. But I think this is the real deal, the true helblindi state at last.
While doing this it helps to move. Pacing is always good. The more physical energy you raise the higher you can drive your mind. Sooner or later you'll hit the overload you need. Tensing the muscles tends to bring out fiery emotions and feelings of energy. Relaxing them brings the opposite. Periodically sit or lie down and relax as much as possible. Sit upside down, perhaps, to help shake up your mind.
Make sounds too. Sounds meant to raise your emotions or focus your resolve help. Growling is good. Laughing maniacally does too. Repeating a simple mantra like “I CAN do this, I CAN do this,....” can also help. By involving the voice you are bringing more of your brain online at once, and getting closer to madspace, especially if the sounds affect the emotions.
While doing all of this it is necessary to keep focused on the problem you are trying to solve. But don't think too much about, in a logical and deterministic sense. Such thoughts involve the forebrain and dualistic non-unitary thinking. Instead just consider the problem as a whole from many different angles. Look at different parts of the problem. Consider all the subjects it involves or is a part of. Over and over again, as powerfully as you can.
Deliberately entering madspace is primarily a matter of experience with these techniques. The more you practice with them, the more effective they become. Description with words can only take you so far. You must feel it to know what the right balance of emotions and energies are, and to feel how to get to the level of stress you need without going too far.
It might be necessary to first have a breakthrough experience before any real control can be had. Deliberately going about solving a large problem, or learning a complex thing, by setting up everything right for a good attempt and resolving to try no matter what the stress or difficulty might provide such a breakthrough. In making such a big production of setting up an attempt and taking care to have every edge you can get, you might learn enough about how it works to start duplicating it in the future. It worked for me with learning perturbation theory by meditation. Before that the eureka moment and madspace came at random. Afterward I started finding them when I sought them.
are no traditional techniques specifically for entering madspace, for
there has never been a tradition dedicated to its exploration. But
having examined the methods I have used, and having learned some of the
ways others have gone about it, I have noticed that there tend to be
some common techniques. Generally, they all center around the concepts
of “seeding” and “mapping”. They form the core of what is called “the
art of memory”, which was a science taught in ancient Greece and Rome
devoted to improving learning and creative thinking.
is a name a colleague and I developed to describe a particular approach
to gymnosophic meditation. It is a set of techniques, or approach to
techniques, that does not emphasize any particular religion or
spirituality. It instead focuses on the bodymind as a machine,
something that can be run in different manners on different “settings”.
It takes advantage of habits and preferences hardwired into the brain
and body, and uses them to push and trick the mind into advanced
meditative awareness. It can be used to supplement any specific
meditation from any religion or spiritual tradition. The psymech
approach could be called a scientific, or even engineering, approach to
problem with inducing metanoia through the seeding and mapping of the
eureka technique is that it can take quite a long time to do it. Days
or even weeks. Psymech (psychological/mechanical) techniques applied to
the eureka technique produce a much more efficient approach. The
psymech variants of the eureka technique are capable of producing
metanoia in hours or even minutes.
another psymech principle with the eureka technique makes it more
effective still. Of course, it also makes it more complicated and
difficult, but practice does pay off. If, during the seeding process,
you selectively seed with dual thinking. Every thing you scan or
contemplate should be seen in terms of matched pairs of opposites. If
you are considering a problem, consider it from both a top-down and
bottom-up perspective. Think of specific examples and general trends.
Think of the right side of the machine by itself, and the left side by
itself (for example). For another example, think of the left half of
the equation alone and the right half alone.
psymech approach can make the eureka technique even more potent by
taking advantage of the mind's need for answers. The need to have
questions answered forces the brain to pull from out of the
subconscious mind likely seeming responses to any question it hears. If
the brain has been properly seeded then this will more likely than not
be some sort of revelation about the problem or subject of study you
are focused on. It will encourage the mind to subconsciously figure
things out even faster.
Overall, the psymech eureka technique is a kind of search algorithm that searches the subconscious mind, encouraging clues and triggers for madspace to occur to the conscious mind. It mixes the mind up and pulls it into unity in the very act of searching.
Each question, each breath, each tensing of the muscles, everything, reaches out to one aspect or another of the mind. Each finds natural rhythms in the bodymind, rhythms that produce good responses, and reinforces them. By feeling them out, you learn to feel how to bring them together, synch them up, until they are working harmonically. Once they achieve harmony then there is a very strong chance the eureka moment or full-blown madspace will be found.
Disclaimer: The information and practices described in this site are the result of years of study and dedication to the understanding of the risks involved. These descriptions are provided for purposes of information only. Actually trying to practice anything described in this site would almost certainly lead to injury, perhaps even serious injury or death. We strongly advise against it.
All content © Wayland Skallagrimsson, 2013