Seeing Öndia

By Jack Wolf

In my mind’s eye I saw her: A tall, strongly built yet feminine figure standing upon a low mound surrounded by trees.

She wore no skirt but rather brown, possibly soft leather trousers that clung to her sturdy legs and ample hips. A dark brown tunic, open at the neck and laced, exposing but a hint of her ample bosom, covered the upper torso and Knee high, serviceable looking boots covered her feet.

At her throat gleamed a silver torc, and along with that, a string of amber beads and bear teeth on a leather thong.

She wore four feathers in her hair; three black and one red.

At her waist she wore a wide, Warrior’s belt and near the left hip from that belt there protruded the hilt of a long bladed knife.

Over the entire ensemble this powerful Warrior-woman wore a garment which reminded me much of a south-western style duster jacket. It was fashioned of deepest green leather – almost black – and possibly of deer hide. It looked worn and serviceable and flowed behind her in the breeze almost like a cloak.

I described what I saw in my minds’ eye to my teacher. I described it to him as I had reconstructed the image I had seen in my dreams – potent dreams of which thus far I had experienced three such.

And my teacher grinned in the near distance, at his seat by the fireplace.

“Now tell me about her skin.” He said with a grin.

I felt a slight shiver go down my spine and I gazed at him in wonder.

He knew.

“This is the thing,” I began, telling the tale regardless. “From her features  she looks like she is perhaps some mixture of northern Euro and Native American. I can’t be sure but her features are very attractive yet hard as well; stern.”

“And…?” he asked, still grinning that sly grin of his.

“Her skin is the darkest midnight black; like coal almost.”

Ari ‘s grin subsided somewhat. I had been correct: he had known; he had himself seen her before.

I had never seen skin so black, not even on folk who hailed from the deepest parts of Africa. On a woman who did not in the slightest way appear African the midnight black skin was rather astonishing to behold.

“And the grey-green eyes.” Ari added, as though quite at ease sharing my thoughts.

The mysterious woman’s eyes were not bright green but rather a kind of hazel green-grey. I could not decide whether they stood out so strikingly because of the prominence of the green or because of the stark contrast with her dark complexion. Like her features the color of the eyes was very noticeable.

“…and let’s not forget the hair.”  I said, to my teacher’s approving nod. “Like a flame; light and dark shades of red streaked together like cedar-wood and sunlight.”

“Indeed.” My teacher said. “You have seen the same woman I have. You have an inkling of who she is don’t you?”

I pondered the image of the woman in my mind. In the dream I had simply seen her standing there, on that low mound with trees in the near distance. The trees appeared to be very old yews, gnarled with age.  She had held two items in her hands: In the left hand a book of some kind, held close to her chest and in the right, held at her side, blade down, was very obviously a Shar; the short shafted ritual implement of the Thornish initiate.

Again I recalled the face. She was facing off into the distance as though she could not see me watching her in that dream-space, yet I had the suspicion she knew all too well of my presence there. Her expression was a blend of sadness and barely suppressed anger. Yet I could tell there was fathomless kindness there as well – buried deeply beneath. She exuded power of a very primal nature and it was from this that when I first encountered her I had mistakenly thought her to be a reflection of the Norse Goddess, Skadhi for a time.

This was not Skadhi though: Something in her appearance; her demeanor told me that this was no Goddess nor even, as Thornish people believe, an Elder Kin – No, she was something else.

“I am not quite sure why we have both seen the same thing.” Ari said at last. “I have seen her in meditations of the deepest sort. Indeed we are not the only ones to have seen this woman, yet she has come to us and we must understand why. There is an inherent lesson to be learned through her presence.”

“Who is she then?” I asked at last.

“We have come to call her Öndia.” He replied. “It would appear that she has no trouble with us doing so.”

“Öndia?” I asked. “As in Önd?”

“As in balance.” He replied. “From Önd we have the breath of life and indeed the breath of inspiration, had from Har himself. We took that and somehow the evolution of that word came to describe this powerful Lady. We see her as an avatar; a personalization of the sacred balance.”

“She is not of the Elder Kin?”

“I don’t think so.” Ari replied. “She is a part of nature given form in a sacred image in the minds of certain folk.”

“An Avatar?”

“An image we assign to something.” He answered. “In this case a manifestation of the ideas we have about the sacred balance. The essence of the Nine Stones and the Sacred Trine as we would say it. Öndia is not a Goddess; not what we would term an Elder Kin, but rather an image of the sacred Balance given human-like form. So we can better comprehend such a thing.”

“Kind of like Lady Liberty or Lady Justice then.” I suggested.

“Yes.” He said. “Kind of like that. Master Ciaran was the first of us to start calling her Öndia. She said that seemed fitting as the image we are talking about; the being we are talking about, is really a

Naar ‘Qa. A Naar ‘Qa as you know is an idea or an avatar of alternative reality, given life and autonomy all on its own. The symbol that Öndia represents is that of balance and adherence to natural laws above all others. It is the way of the Shar and as the implements of nature we tribal folk are connected at the core with the concept of balance.”

“She is a mixture of elements it would seem.” I commented, referring to her features, her skin and her eyes.

“She is the harder side of motherhood I would venture.” My teacher said. “The side that is well prepared to nurture but even more prepared to kill if necessary to defend what she holds close.”

“Balance.”

“Balance knows no favorites save for that which supports balance.” Ari continued. “This is the reason she appears as a strong, Warrior woman holding a book and a Shar. The book represents knowledge and the Shar represents the wherewithal to defend that knowledge. The knowledge is the First Knowledge of course – that of the sacred Balance. Her clothes are most often seen as the garb of a Huntress or a Warrior; sometimes she is seen wearing a cloak – always dark and other times a long coat of some kind. She is female because of that connection which the feminine has in the cycle of life and nurturing. Her attitudes are that of the Elder who is also a Warrior: There is softness and understanding there as well but these things are given only to the innocent, otherwise they must be earned by everyone else.”

“How many have seen her?” I asked, still amazed by the fact that I had not been the only one to have such dreams.

“A number of us have.” He replied. “And perhaps this is due to the discussions we have had about Balance. Perhaps it is because of other things, I am not sure. But what matters is that the cosmos has decided to communicate with us with this symbol and we should respect that. It is also important that we remember that Öndia is a sign of balance; a face of balance- a symbol to us, not balance itself – and that she is not a Goddess.”

“I understand.” I said.

“Best that we see her in our minds when we contemplate the she-wolf who lies just beyond the veil.” Ari added. “The balance will shift beneath our feet at times and you will find that for the unprepared and the disrespectful she can be quite without mercy.”

“I have seen that.” I commented, quite seriously.

“See that you continue to do so.” He reminded me. “Balance is the twin sister of freedom.”

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About Jack Wolf

Canadian author Jack Wolf has been a practicing Pagan for over 30 years, walking a path that encompasses both his Northern European and Native American heritage. He counts the late Heathen Goði and writer E. Max Hyatt, Professor Mark Mirabello, Dakota tribal Chief William Hoff and American author Allan Cole among his mentors. An avid outdoorsman, Jack has spent a considerable portion of his life exploring the deep wilds of British Columbia, a vast province on Canada’s west coast. He brings a great deal of his wilderness experience to his spiritual path. Over the past 15 years Jack has studied and written about a number of northern pagan traditions, having published for the most part independently or in small journals, blogs or websites. His recent works for Mandrake of Oxford Have certainly opened up his writing to a larger audience. Jack is also the author of several other books, including Circle of Bones (2012), The Way of the Odin Brotherhood (2013), Blood and Stone (2014) co-author of Tales from the Red Moon Lodge (2014) and co-editor of A Voice from the Thornwood (winter 2014). Forthcoming works include The Thornish Path, Ullr’s Road and The Urban Tribalist, all of which are planned for a mid-2015 and early 2016 release respectively. Spiritually, Jack identifies himself generally as a Deep Tribalist and more specifically as Thornish. He is a member of a primal pagan tradition whose spiritual path involves questing for the First Knowledge – that held by our most ancient ancestors whose hearts and spirits were deeply connected to the land. The Thornish path is the way of the warrior-steward; a Deep Tribal tradition which Jack has practiced since the late 1980’s Jack holds a degree in anthropology from the world renowned University of British Columbia and has long held an avid interest in history, tribal peoples, spirituality and the reawakening of pagan peoples worldwide. He currently resides with his wife and co-author Cassandra Wolf and their daughter, in Squamish, British Columbia.
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