Wednesday, 20 July 2016

[ thought and memory ]

In Norse mythology, Hugin and Munin (sometimes spelled Huginn and Muninn, respectively) were the two ravens of Odin, who flew around Midgard (middle earth; the human world) and reported back to him of all that went on. 

In a beautiful poem, Odin, in his disguise of Grimnir, reveals his fear that one day Hugin may not return, but he is more anxious for Munin. Which can be supposed to say he fears his thoughts may go, but he is more worried about losing his memory*. 

Thought is reasoning or remembering experience, an activity of the mind, and memory is the retention or revival of events and recollections. But did one come first, or are they inextricably linked? 

The latter seems more likely and here it will be treated as such; in order to connect with your inner thoughts, you need to sift through your memories for feelings and connect them. To find old memories, you must reason through your thoughts to their conclusions. 


This meditation connects you to your own Hugin (hyoo-gin) and Munin (moo-nin); your inner ravens of thought and memory. It can be used for something as simple as finding your car keys, to more complex challenges such as discovering what you feel about a certain situation and why. It can even be used to help come to a conclusion about a weighty decision. 

Find somewhere quiet to sit, preferably a space that is dimly lit or has filtered, natural light. Sit crossed legged if possible, or against a wall if not, with your feet in front of you. 

Take the time to make yourself comfortable; drop your shoulders, even slouch a little, wiggle your bottom until you feel seated just right. Shake your hands out and place them on knees or in your lap. Roll your neck from side to side, let your jaw drop open, scrunch and release your nose. 

When all the kinks are smoothed out, ease into an upright but loose position and stare straight ahead. Find something to focus on - rainy days are especially good for this, as you can focus on raindrops on glass. Try to make it something simple. Let your eyes float in and out of focus on this spot. If necessary, you may close your eyes instead. 

Slowly, from your peripheral vision, see two misty shapes start to form, one on each shoulder, and each almost equal to the size of your face. Feel small, sharp pinches on each shoulder, and see a long, slender beak appear. Something small and shiny on each side begins to look back at you; the eyes of a bird. They are birds, large ones too. Your birds; your ravens. 

Still staring ahead, with your gaze soft and hazy, take a moment to indirectly watch them fully form. Imagine them preening and kneading gently into your shoulder. Feel a feather swipe your ear on one side, and a low gurgle rumble from the other. Feel a firm, but not unpleasant, nudge against your cheek. 

Breathe slowly and evenly for a little longer and let your companions get their bearings. Wait until they begin to hop around before saying anything. They will come to rest directly in front of you, but you need not look at them; keep your focus on the spot in front of you. They know you see them as they see you, and they are waiting for your instructions. 

Very gently and clearly, make your wishes clear, addressing each bird individually; 

Hugin; where are my keys? Munin; where did I leave my keys? 

Hugin; why do I feel sad about this? Munin; why does this make me feel unhappy?

Repeat your questions to each bird over and over, in a low, soft voice. Take as long as you need. Use exactly the same phrasing as the first time, and continue asking until the words seem to lose meaning for you and naturally drift off. 

From the corner of your eyes, see your ravens tilt their heads and shuffle around. Watch them shift about and launch themselves into the air, circling the space a few times. Keep your eyes focused on the original spot, and follow each bird as they plunge into the very same space your eyes are fixed on. 

Your surroundings will now appear to reform to where your ravens have taken you; see the last place you remember having your keys, the location of the situation that made you unhappy, or the place where a decision needs to be made. 

Take a moment to assess these visuals, breathe slowly and evenly as you take in these surroundings. Note where each bird is; are they sitting on a particular shelf or piece of furniture? Are they pecking at a certain object? Have they landed on or near a certain person? 

Keep breathing slowly and evenly, and with each breath take even more care with what your Hugin and Munin are doing; are they looking at you expectantly, or is their focus elsewhere? Is their stance aggressive and tense, or relaxed and waiting?  

Whisper your request again, repeating it quietly three times, with each time being more firm and pronounced than the last. Watch the birds sharpen their attention on you, connect yourself with that scrutiny and use your voice to convey the strength of your desire.

Recognise that these birds are of you, but they are not in you at this moment. They only recall and report what they see and hear. They observe everything, in the most precise detail, without judgement, and convey the nature of the subject. 

Recognise the information they are giving you; the places they are focusing on, the people they are indicating, the moment they have stopped in. Contemplate all the details your sharp-eyed attendants have presented you with. 

Once you feel you have perceived all the knowledge your Hugin and Munin have offered you, nod to them, thank them, take a moment to acknowledge this powerful part of you, that is not in you. 

Call to the birds, Hugin; come to me, Munin; come to me, repeating it over and over, softly, coaxingly. Watch as the birds shuffle around your scene and launch into the air once more, circling slowly. 

Refocus your eyes on your spot, let them become hazy, let the scene around you dim and fade slowly. As it does, see your birds soar towards you, watch them hurtle on a path straight for you. Let everything else drift away but the two black shapes coming at you. 

Right before they hit you, close your eyes, and feel a rush of air as Hugin and Munin whoosh past each ear. Feel the deafening silence at their departure. Breathe deeply into the silence. 

Continue to breathe slowly and deeply. Let the outside world filter back in, one sound at a time. Open your eyes and huff out a breathe. Clap your hands three times to dispel the energy. 

Sit for a moment and relish all you have learned. You now have everything you need to understand what it was you sought. Be grateful for such a gift and enjoy it. 


*There is debate around the meaning of Munin; memory or desire? For the purpose of a more powerful inspiration here, we will stick to the more archetypal belief that it means memory.

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