Heilsa

Heilsa, I am Wayland Skallagrimsson. I am the author of the Uppsala Online website, and several books on Asatru and related topics. For the past twelve years, I have also run the somafera forum. For those of you who don’t know, somafera is the general term for a related set of practices from all over the world, but which included the berserkergang.

The berserkergang, of course, is the martial art of a type of elite viking warrior known as a berserker. An internal style of martial art, it is also a spiritual practice. Through religious ritual, berserkers worked themselves into ecstatic frenzies, wherein they could access the strength of the hysterically insane. However, because the state was triggered spiritually, it could be directed. There were similar martial arts/spiritual practices all over the world, such as the riastradh of the Celts, the Indonesian “running amok,” and Chinese spirit boxing. There were related states, such as those of the Tunguska, that conferred great endurance, for work, through spiritual ritual. Still others, such as mainadism, existed primarily as spiritual practices, with few practical applications. There are even variants that enhance the intellect. The term “somafera” was coined by modern practitioners as a blanket term for all such practices. It is from Greek and Latin, and means “the body wild.”

In the year 2000, the mainad Dver and I started research into the altered states that we each experienced, her in her mainadic practices and I in my berserker practices. We learned a lot by comparing notes, and learned even more when we found other somaferans from around the world. We created a forum, in order to facilitate the free and easy exchange of ideas. In time, as our group grew, we came to meet every year in person. These Gatherings were an opportunity to learn from somaferans of other traditions, learn new techniques and discoveries by experienced somaferans, and put our ideas to the test. There was a martial arts tournament every year, with a no holds barred open hand format, for the berserkers and the other martial types. There were symposia every day, and spiritual rituals each night.

As time went by we made it our mission to help other somaferans. You see, most people who are drawn to these practices are born prone to entering the somaferan state naturally, without training. An in-born talent, just as talents in art and science can be in-born. Imagine growing up with a tendency to go berserk without intending to, or being able to stop it. It tends to create a lot of psychological and spiritual problems. The forum became a place where somaferans could find advice and counseling, as well as learn spiritual, technical, and even scientific information about somaferan practices.

The membership of the forum kept changing. People found what they were looking for, or failed to, and moved on. The membership changed many times over the years. I remained the one constant member of the forum, and every time the membership shrank to near zero, I built it back up again.

The last time the membership shrank to near zero was fairly recently. I do not have the time or the patience to build it back up again. And I am frankly tired of the constant games and politics that inevitably accompany moderating any group. I have my own work to see to. So I have decided to change the forum into a blog. In this way I can continue sharing any discoveries that I make in the field, any new techniques that I find, as I discover them. I can try to help somaferans who are looking for help. I can provide the resources of the old forum for anyone wanting to have questions answered on topics that we covered. People who have questions can ask me via the comments section. And I can share the basics of the subject, and describe the chief questions that need answering, in the hopes of spreading understanding of who we are, our place in the modern world, and starting dialogues on this fascinating subject.

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12 thoughts on “Heilsa

  1. hello, this is kinda surreal as I have been following your research since 2010. Before I came across your beserkergang, I didn’t know what to call it. I knew what it was, I knew what it did but I didn’t know what to call it. I started researching the fight or flight response and the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. this….lets call it phenomena has been with me since as long as I can remember. Ive had a few violent encounters where I blacked out and lost it. I actually would like to compare notes as I have made a few discoveries that I thought were very interesting myself….for one: have you ever tried to elevate with joy??? sounds weird but the phenomena happens as a response to stress. There are different kinds of stress: distress (anger, fear etc) eustress(happy joy) that could explain religious ecstasy as you wrote about. I have achieved this ONCE lol I got lazy after that. it only lasted for a short while but it worked. there is so much I want to ask you and just share notes. hopefully I will hear from you soon.

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  2. hello there.. i just found out about somafera and am really terrified that thats exactly what i experience every day.. i know about berserkers and ulfhednars and all this stuff… am also a heathen so all this just adds more to my thinking.. am 16 and i had some problems with the gangr… am also waiting for trial because of the last accident that happened… i just want to talk to someone who understands… since the forum is out i cannot explain this and find someone to talk to … to help me with this… i have sent an e mail to dont know who or how and no response still… so am just in struggle to find a way.. please answer somehow

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    • I don’t really use that email anymore. I have spent a few years trying to eradicate all traces of it online. Yet people keep finding it.

      There used to be a hard age limit on the old forum. No one under 18 allowed. We did make exception for older teens in crisis, though. I won’t give you any particular advice on initiation and such dangerous practices at your age. If you want to talk, though, go ahead. I will help as I can, and I am sure that others here will too.

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      • Wayland,

        Are there any practices or advice for a teen too young for caamora like me? I would like to train, perhaps in meditation, but I still need a few pointers on where to start my berserker training.

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      • If you have access to a heavy bag, work with that. Specifically, meditate before you get up to strike the bag. Pay attention to how different meditative states of mind affect your striking. Or try meditating before lifting weights. Also work on attaining dagaz moments. A dagaz moment is a default unitary state you trick your mind into. It is a way of getting into the kind of meditative state you need for the gangr. Stand some distance away from a target, holding small rocks/balls, beanbags, etc. Look away from it. When you turn, or open your eyes, throw at the same moment you first see. If you see then throw, you will miss, if the target is distant. If seeing and looking are one, you will have a decent accuracy even on distant targets.

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  3. Wayland,

    I have been following your blog for a few months now. The method of training that the berserkers use is very interesting. Speed, strength, and tactics. Simple, yet effective. What I wanted to ask you about concerns a Viking training organization called Norskk. Have you ever heard of it? It seems to be very effective, but I have never used it. You can read about it at norskk.com. I just want your opinion and whether or not it is worth it.

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    • Looking at their site, I am not impressed. They seem to toss words around without any understanding for their meaning or historical context. They seem to like to use Old Norse sounding terms, but clearly do not understand them. They say some highly questionable things, like thinking that Ulfhednar are master of plant lore. They do not seem to be aware that ulfhednar are berserkers, or what the gangr really is. Instead, they seem to think it is some kind of survival lore thing. They write like they are trying to imply that the old traditions have survived on a large scale, unchanged, into modern times, a patently false thing. Their entire site seems to be build around selling things and frankly, they seem to give of a cult-y vibe, but that is just a subjective impression. I have never heard of these people, yet they are talking like they are large and well know.

      Seems like all front to me. I would not recommend them.

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    • Yes, concentrating on speed, strength, and right action can be highly effective. But there is a caveat. Being really fast and strong is of limited value if that is all you have. This is why mundane styles are a match for our own. By not focusing as much on technique and form, we often waste energy, overextend, do stupid things that we need to recover from, etc. This cuts into the edge that the strength and speed give us. I once saw a video of me dueling a traditional sword master. I beat him. But I looked like a bumbling amateur next to him. His movements were minimal, flowing, graceful, without a wasted move. I was all over the place, overreaching, having to pull myself up or rebalance myself after a clumsy attack missed, etc. I had the speed to do it consistently, and that gave me the edge. But if I had the time to master the traditional ways AND the berserker stuff, I would be unstoppable.

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      • I have thought about strength/speed/tactics versus technique for a while. Thank you for your thoughts. On another note, would a master of some martial art form (such as a Shaolin monk) be able to beat a berserker who focused on the three pillars of training instead of technique? Which groups would specifically be able to defeat berserkers like this, and how do we best handle them?

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      • Well, I suspect the Shaolin certainly could, as I suspect they are something very similar to berserkers. True Shaolin, that is, from Wudan Mountain, not the con artists you get over here.

        Any martial style could learn such techniques, or realize they would work well against our style. I suspect that krav maga would be very hard for us to deal with.

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