enhancing healing

As many berserkers in training soon discover, the berserker path necessitates a lot of healing. The same kind of enhancement that works for strength will work for healing. Just elevating will speed up the healing process, as long as you keep yourself well fed.

But we can do better than that.

The key is gestaltic visualization. Visualize the location of the injury. Concentrate on the feel of the injury. Try to picture the parts of your body that actually do the healing. Picture your body as a whole, coursing with power. Picture your elevated self. Picture yourself free of injury. Visualize every detail of the injured parts of your body from as many perspectives as possible. Visualize healing runes. Visualize them on your injury. Visualize yourself inhaling healing energy from the world around you, and directing it to the wound.

Keep switching from one image to another. Concentrate powerfully on each, but linger on none.

You are aiming to build up a powerful, complex, detailed image of your injury and your healing, one far more complex than you can manage just by concentrating on one thing. This will recruit and focus FAR more of your mind into the healing effort, and the speed with which you heal should improve.


Somafera, Religion, and Spirituality

It has recently been pointed out to me that I need to address the issue of somafera, religion, and spirituality again. I have done so before, on multiple occasions, but apparently I have written enough on the topic of somafera that it is not always easy for everybody to find everything.

First of all, let me make one thing clear: somafera practice is not a religion, and it is not a form of spirituality. At its most basic, the various somafera practices are forms of applied physiological science. They alter the way the body and mind function in order to make them work better, for short periods of time. Practically speaking, the matter is more complicated than that.
Entering a somaferan state involves transcendental emotions. For the vast majority of people, that is going to involve some kind of spiritual or religious experience. On the one hand, this is the only way most people can ever experience such powerful emotions, outside of life or death experiences. On the other hand, the experience of feeling transcendental emotions will be experienced as a spiritual or religious experience for the great majority of people. It is simply human nature that this is so.
The thing is, it is not this way for everyone. There are also atheist somaferans. Not many, but I have known a few. They do not use spiritual or religious experiences to achieve transcendental emotions. When they experience such emotions, the do not perceive them as having either a religious or as spiritual component (and no, “religious” and “spiritual” are not synonyms).
One thing that spiritual somaferans and atheist somaferans have in common, though, is the need for meditation. You see, overload alone is not enough. The overload has to happen in a state of meditative calm. This is because adrenaline alone is a really bad thing, when taken to excess. High levels of adrenaline cause the shakes, poor coordination, and bad judgment. Meditation calms the mind, and the rest of the nervous system, allowing the body to experience the benefits of adrenaline without any of the drawbacks. Additionally, meditation allows the deep subconscious to be more easily accessed, and this is a prerequisite of the gangr. elevating requires the whole mind to act in unison, and this cannot happen without tapping into the deep subconscious.
(Side note here: reflexive gangrs that occur in response to life or death crises do not technically require meditation at all. However, this is only because the sheer shock and surprise wipes away everything that was in the conscious awareness, and dumps the mind into an instantaneous, deep, default meditative state.)
Spiritual somaferans see meditation as a method of getting in contact with spiritual powers. Atheist somaferans see meditation as a form of hypnosis, entraining the mind into the right channels.
There is something of a debate in the modern world between the religious/spiritual perspective on the one hand, and the atheist perspective on the other. I do not take either position, myself. I am a monistic idealist, philosophically speaking. The only reason that we know that everything in the observable world is made of physical particles is because we have the mental experience of observing them. There is no experiment on the observable world that has ever been conducted or ever will be conducted that does not end with “…and I know this because I saw/heard/touched/smelled/tasted it.” In other words, the primary layer of reality as we experience it is mental, not physical. Physical objects, the entire outside world, is at its very foundation a special type of mental experience. Please note that this is not because experiments are badly designed. No experiment, no matter how cleverly set up, can ever change this. Reality is primarily mental.
Because I do not know enough to say that one of these views is true and the others are false, I do not claim that any religious belief is false. As a consequence of this, I accept all religious beliefs as provisionally true, at least until I get any better evidence one way or another. Therefore, I believe in Odin and the gods of Valhalla. I believe that Jesus died for my sins. I believe that there is one god, and Mohammed is his prophet. I believe that Buddha was enlightened and that Lao Tzu achieved great comprehension of the Tao. I believe in the lwa, and the orisha. I believe in the flying spaghetti monster. I even believe the atheists are correct. We all have a small part of the truth. Nothing more. To claim greater knowledge than this is hubris, the act of an egotistical fool.

The Paratrooper’s Prayer

This prayer was found on the body of a dead paratrooper in World War Two. I first heard it at a somafera Gathering. These are good words for any berserker to live by.

I’m asking You God, to give me what You have left.
Give me those things which others never ask of You.
I don’t ask You for rest, or tranquility.
Not that of the spirit, the body, or the mind.
I don’t ask You for wealth, or success, or even health.
All those things are asked of You so much Lord,
that you can’t have any left to give.
Give me instead Lord what You have left.
Give me what others don’t want.
I want uncertainty and doubt.
I want torment and battle.
And I ask that You give them to me now and forever Lord,
so I can be sure to always have them,
because I won’t always have the strength to ask again.
But give me also the courage, the energy,
and the spirit to face them.
I ask You these things Lord,
because I can’t ask them of myself.

So What Do I Do With All This?

If you have recently realized that you have a somaferan nature, you may be at a loss of what to do with it. There are a number of options. Firstly, you can try to ignore it. Secondly, you can try to come to terms with it enough for it to be useful on occasion, and to avoid the problems that can sometimes come with a somaferan nature. Thirdly, you can embrace it, and learn the skills necessary to gain some measure of control over it.

Ignoring it is generally a bad idea. If you don’t know what the warning signs are for an oncoming berserk fit, then you will be prone to losing control, and that isn’t good for anybody. Repressing it only works in the short term. Over the long term, it actually makes dangerous, sudden berserker fits much more likely.

Coming to terms with it means mostly psychological work. Embracing and developing it means psychological work and a whole lot more. Both of these approaches, however, start with the same thing: meditation. You need to learn to meditate for three reasons. Firstly, it quiets your conscious mind so that ideas and feelings from your subconscious parts can float to the surface and be heard. This includes the voice of your alter, and the attitudes and ideas you have toward your somaferan side. Secondly, it helps keep you mentally and spiritually balanced. This makes you less likely to lose control, and more likely to stay on top of things. Thirdly, once you develop some meditative skills, you can use it to unlearn bad habits and learn new good habits faster than you normally could.

This is about all you need to do in order to come to terms with it, though a few other practices will help as well. Letting your alter out to play in safe circumstances helps. Prayer helps, if you are religiously inclined. Maybe some form of artistic expression would do good as well. This is as much as the vast majority of somaferans will ever need. For most, experiencing the occasional spontaneous state and staying safe is enough.

Some, however, wish to experience more and develop the skills that go along with a somaferan nature. If you choose to embrace this, you need to do some major meditative and psychological work. This is going to be true no matter what the reason you are embracing it. Your normal mundane self and your somaferan alter are rather distinct personas, and each operates with your physiology in a distinctly different state. To be able to recall things from one state to the next, and to be able to exert some form of control, is no small feat. You will need a deep meditative state and extensive hypnotic priming.

In all likelihood, you are going to need an initiation ritual. The ancients used them. We modern somaferans have found them to be necessary for deep control in more than 9 out of 10 cases. You can break somaferan initiation rituals down into three types, generally speaking:

  • Madspace Breakthrough: if your somaferan nature inclines more toward spiritual experiences and mental enhancement then you can benefit greatly from one of these. Essentially, it involves achieving maximum mental stress that leads to a mental breakdown and rebuilding, a metanoia that creates a new mental state optimized for solving problems. It results in an extended eureka state. It is difficult to achieve the incredible mental and emotional stress needed for metanoia of this type, so this ritual requires incredible mental focus and self discipline. This type of initiation will generally not confer any control or expression of berserker-type somaferan states, though there have been exceptions.
  • Trial by Combat: one of the most common styles of berserker initiation. In modern times this means stepping into the ring with a more experienced, stronger fighter and fighting in a no holds barred mixed martial arts style. The experienced fighter must continually push the initiate’s limits, hurting and terrifying the initiate enough to trigger the berserker breakthrough. The experienced fighter must not knock out or exhaust the initiate, but instead play with him or her as long as possible. The incredible pain, fear, and stress of this method is easily able to trigger a true gangr in almost any natural berserker who has prepared properly. However, for some reason that we do not as yet understand, this method is prone to a high degree of failure and backsliding. That is to say that many initiates who succeed at this initiation do not subsequently learn any control over the gangr, or soon lose the control that they do gain. However, this is the ideal method to use for the vast majority of somaferans looking for an initiation. It has an element of danger to it without risking anything very serious, other than pain. It is an excellent compromise between the genuinely risky ancient methods and modern safety concerns.
  • Trial by Fire: the gold standard, as far as deep control goes. This kind of initiation uses fire walking or a similar ancient fire handling ritual. This is possible to do safely under the right circumstances largely due to the enhanced heat removal capacity of the blood when the pulse and blood pressure are as insanely high as they are in a berserker state. Much like putting a paper cup of water in a fire, the paper will not burn while there is water in it. A berserker initiate can deliberately trigger the gangr, in a deep, deep meditative state, by using the pain, fear, stress, and need to avoid being badly injured that contact with fire or hot coals brings.

Please keep in mind that the very idea of this is insane. This approach is ONLY for advanced spirit workers with a lot of experience. This is not for amateurs, or noobs. The point at which the fire resistant state comes, if it comes at all, it the tiniest moment before your flesh burns. If you fail to enter the state, YOU WILL BURN. The majority of the people who have tried this method have suffered at least blistering burns. Only three, myself included, have ever escaped entirely unburned. One berserker I know was SERIOUSLY burned, requiring multiple surgeries and leaving him with permanent disfigurement.

The only reason that anyone goes this route is that if it does succeed, the control that it gives seems to be permanent. None who have succeeded at this ritual have failed to gain control, and few have ever backslid.

It is likely that a true vision quest style of ritual, with the extended fasting, might also work, but I know of none who have tried. Whichever method you choose, you need to spend MONTHS preparing. That means extensive daily meditations, hypnotic primings, readings, and ritual tool making. The ritual itself must be complex, and utilize certain techniques. If you are new to meditation, your preparation will need to take years. You cannot rush this. If you do not have the patience to prepare for this ritual properly, then you do not have the willpower to break through.

Whichever path you choose, take your time and think about it. A somaferan nature is just like any other inborn talent or skill, such as race car driving or painting. It is a part and parcel of who you are. It will still be there later.

I Am a Conversation

Many people think that all those who have multiple personalities have a mental illness. This isn’t really the case, however. It is not only possible to be relatively sane and functional with multiple personalities, it is even somewhat common.

This is, after all, essentially what a berserker or any other kind of somaferan is. Most have two distinct selves: the normally dominant human self and the usually animal alter. A minority of somaferans just experience changes in their human self when they elevate, without becoming something completely different. Another minority have multiple alters.

My alter is a wolf. As with most berserkers, it comes out in times of great stress, as a defense mechanism. I have another, rarer alter as well, that only rears its head in the most desperate of circumstances. As it does not have a name for itself, I refer to it as The Engine. It is mechanical, relentless, without passion, and completely focused on survival. I also have a couple of other selves which are not alters, in that they do not change my physiology when they take over. This is not uncommon in somaferans, though the majority do not seem to experience more than just the two usual ones.

For a long time I found this state of affairs confusing, even maddening at times. For much of the early part of my life, I felt that I was fragmented, unwhole. My various selves struggled for dominance. This effect was greatly reinforced by the attitudes and narratives of the “normal” world, which always depicted people like us in just this way.

I have learned better in the years since. My different selves learned to work together. I came to feel as if “I” was really a council of voices. This trend has continued to the point where I no longer feel like I am a fragmented being. Instead, all of my different selves are whole, healthy beings in and of themselves. They are not fragments. I am not a battlefield anymore.

I am a conversation.

I am a whole thing, and more than a whole thing. I am more than a sum of my parts. This state of affairs makes me strong. I am never alone. I am always balanced. I always have counsel. If you are a young or inexperienced somaferan, and you feel at war with yourself, know that it gets better. It can get a lot better. It starts with conversation.

The Ritual of the Caamora

One of the most intense, obscure of the ancient somaferan rites involved trial by fire. The Wolf Warriors of the Dacians walked on hot coals. The maenads and berserkers sometimes practiced handling fire. The spirit horses of vodoun, some of whom are somaferan, also handle fire. Modern somaferans do as well. Because the ancient names for most of these rituals are lost to time, modern practitioners have adopted a name from modern fiction to refer to it, the caamora. From The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, I believe, where a similar, fictional ritual is given that name.

I am not going to go into an explanation of how firewalking works in a scientific sense. I have already done that here. Instead I am going to describe what it is like, and why we somaferans practice it.

First of all, only an initiate has any chance of successfully performing this rite, as a rule. The supreme control and experience that the initiation ritual grants are needed to enter the state of fire resistance deliberately and reliably. I have only known one person who could do this ritual without having first had his initiation, and he had a rare, strong natural talent for the berserkergang.

The modern form of the ritual usually uses a fire the size of a campfire. Water or a fire extinguisher should be kept on hand. After a good hot fire is built up, the practitioners keep it well fed until it develops a good bed of coals. Once the coals have developed, the fire is only fed at a maintenance level. Music is started at this point, something spiritual and powerful. Heavy metal usually works best. While the somaferans elevate, a ritual horn might be passed around. The key here is for the practitioners to consume enough to get loosened up without consuming enough to dull the wits.

No words are spoken. This rite is far too personal for words to have meaning. Each somaferan elevates according to his or her own techniques. Group rites often work best, as elevation tends to be contagious. Once one somaferan starts growling, or howling, or banging his fists against his head, the divine madness starts to spread pretty quickly.

As each somaferan hits the breakthrough point, the ritual really begins in earnest. Practitioners hold their hands and arms in the fire, sometimes keeping them there for half a minute or more. Some pick up coals and hold them in their hands. Some pick up burning sticks and extinguish the flames by grabbing the burning log and smothering it with the hands. The further this goes, the wilder things get. Howling that could wake the dead. Leaping, dancing, performing physical feats. Some jump through the flames or walk through the coals. I saw one berserker somersault while holding two glasses of ale, spilling not a drop from either glass.

The ritual continues until each participant is burned out, energy-wise, and drops out of the fire resistant state. Some never manage to enter it in the first place. The practitioners inspect themselves and each other for burns that might have happened without being felt.

So, why do we do this? There are a number of reasons, but the most important is that in the fire resistant somaferan state, there is no falsehood. The mind is in a deep unitary state of consciousness, and by definition is not divided. As falsehoods are by definition mentally divided states, where the truth is walled off behind words that do match, they cannot exist in such a powerful unitary state. When you are in such a state that you can resist fire, then you are truly and perfectly yourself. No lies, no illusions, no comfortable truths. You apprehend yourself as you truly are. This is a truly unparalleled opportunity to learn about yourself. It is also one of the best feelings in all of life. Not some kind of rush or high, it is a much deeper source of joy than that. Being wholly and truly yourself so SO DEEPLY SATISFYING. It makes you feel whole in a way that nothing else can, because you ARE whole. A good caamora can shake you out of even a deep depression, cure even intense anxiety. This why we practice the caamora. It is better than therapy, better than drugs, better than any but the best sex. It is revelation, challenge, and comfort all rolled into one. It is wild, ecstatic, cathartic. It is one of my very favorite things.

Putting on the Wolf Skin

frontcoverAfter the somafera forum closed down, we few remaining members of the old Pack each went our separate ways to pursue our own paths. We each decided to take what we had learned from the forum and send it out into the world in whatever form we thought would do the most good. I’m a writer, so I plan on publishing a series of books on the subject of the berserkergang and other forms of somafera.

I have just published the first of these – Putting on the Wolf Skin: The Berserkergang and Other Forms of Somafera. I split it into two parts that can either be read separately or together. The first tackles the berserkergang, using primarily a spiritual and martial arts perspective. The second addresses the intellectual variant of somafera, the one that enhances mental functioning. This one uses a more scientific perspective. It is a beginner’s book, that covers the basics of how these states work, what it is like to experience them, and more. It provides details of ancient and modern initiation rituals, as well as a number of exercises to induce the state, as developed by the members of the forum over the course of decades. It gives advice on how to come to terms with the tumultuous, difficult lives that born somaferans are prone to experiencing. It also provides a summary of our scientific investigations into the state.

I have attempted to distill the fundamentals of these practices as developed by a team of dedicated somaferan researchers that included medical theorists, Navy SEALs, spiritualists, and more. I wish to thank them for all of their help and guidance over the years. The contents of this book are a product of their efforts and insights as much as my own. Fare well wherever you fare, siblings.

You can purchase Putting on the Wolf Skin direct from Createspace, or on Amazon.com (or order it from your local bookstore).