Below are a series of quotations from The Way of the Wyrd, by Brian Bates (Arrow Books Ltd, London, 1983). They illustrate how Anglo-Saxon spiritual leaders understood the world. “Wyrd” is the word they used to express what lies behind our visible world.

I have inserted comments about how I feel these kind of insights can guide us in our work as trainers today.

“The soul is what gives form, direction and pattern to all things, for it forms a shield-skin around the life-force, enveloping vitality in a recognisable shape. The form of the shield-skin defines the kind of creature we are. The shield must be continually maintained with each succeeding breath, for if it is not then life-force would burst from it like molten metal, shapeless, uncontrollably leaking back into earth. The soul is the essence and at the moment of death, when the shield-skin ceases and life-force returns to Mother Earth, the soul leaves the body and leads an existence separate from it. […]

“ The shield-skin is a temporary existence; life-force flows like a stream and the shield-skin should be the valley through which it flows, not a stagnant pool blocking its movement” (pp.97-99 – my emphasis)

3 main elements – soul, shield-skin, and life-force. What struck me about this was the parallel with a good training process, particularly over a number of days. The “shield-skin” is the structure of the training, the themes and methods, the framework within which space is created to allow things to happen. The “life-force” is the energy which develops within a group around the themes you are exploring and the methods you are using. The “soul” is the people – the trainers and participants – and that which is inside of them.

At the start of the process, people bring their individual “souls” to the gathering. During their time together, those individual souls connect in some way, and a group “soul” takes shape, which gives the form to the “life-force” that emerges. At the end of the process, people go their separate ways, the “life-force” of the meeting returns to its source, and the “shield-skin” of the programme ceases to exist, and the individual “souls” return to their existences, enriched by the group process and still in some way connected by the group “soul” that they all shared.

It also sheds light on the apparent paradox of structure and space. Some people try to do away with all structure, but then there is no “valley” for the “life-force” to flow down, then it dissipates frustratingly. Structure is essential, in order to create the channel for the energy. Control is a different thing. Trying to control the “life-force” once it is flowing within the “shield-skin” will only cause disturbance, like putting your hand in a fast-flowing stream. Letting go of control does not mean letting go of awareness. Precisely the opposite. In releasing the “life-force” we are able to connect to the “soul”, reflect on what is happening, and learn from it, within the safety of the “shield-skin”.

“We cannot control our lives, because we too are inseparable aspects of wyrd and express its will. But this is not the same as saying our life is determined . Rather, it is saying we live like an ocean voyager – trimming our sails to the winds and tides of wyrd is something that happens at every instant. The pattern of life is not woven ahead of time, like cloth to be worn later as a tunic. Rather, life is woven at the very instant you live it. […]

“Patterns change as they are woven. A pattern that is complex has more scope for change, for there are many themes on which a new pattern may be based. … The task of a sorcerer is to become fully aware and sensitive to all nuances of his life-design as it unfolds.” (p. 113)

“Life is woven at the very instant you live it…”. If that’s the case, then the trainer had better be there, or rather here, in the now, as it happens, in order to be able to experience it and build on it. The trainer’s job is similar to the “sorcerer” in terms of being aware of what is unfolding in one’s own “life-design”. But you must also be watching what is happening to other people’s “life-design”, to the “life-design” of the group soul, and help to make the patterns visible to the group for them to name, unmask and engage with.

See also my talk on the Way of Wyrd.

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