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Pagan Portals – The Norns, by Irisanya Moon

Pagan Portals – The Norns: Weavers of Fate and Magick, by Irisanya Moon
Moon Books, 1789049105, 112 pages, August 2023

From the Weird Sisters in Shakespeare’s Macbeth to the three witches in Disney’s 1993 cult classic Halloween film Hocus Pocus, the Triple Goddess of Fate haunts pop culture, bewitching the masses in the form of three meddlesome hags. Fate’s commercial success in such unflattering incarnations betrays how terrifying the concept of predestination is to contemporary Westerners who tenaciously cling to the secular cult of Free Will, despite the audacious philosophers and neuroscientists like Sam Harris who have declared that free will is an illusion. According to Harris, the conscious mind may believe it’s in control, but it only acts out decisions that have already been made by the subconscious mind. 1 Some people may even become enraged by the idea that there is no such thing as free will, because our culture places such high value on accepting personal responsibility for our successes and failures in life. There is a deep collective fear of not having control over our destinies.  

In Pagan Portals – The Norns: Weavers of Fate and Magic, author, witch, and priestess Irisanya Moon reveals that the ancient Norse had a more holistic view, and saw Fate, or Wyrd, as an intricate web that both includes and transcends us. The Norns, the trio of mysterious goddesses who personify Fate in Norse mythology, are ubiquitous spirits, unseen yet all-pervasive, ever weaving the fabric of space and time. They occupy the liminal spaces, moving through us and around us, forever spinning the wheel of the Cosmos, and their spindle of Fate pricks the thumbs of both gods and mortals alike.

Because of their ubiquity, the Norns can be difficult to define. There are the primary three, named Urd, the Norn of What Was, who is associated with the past and creates the thread of life; Verdandi, the Norn of Becoming, or the present moment, who measures the thread of life; and Skuld, the Norn of What Shall Be, who cuts the thread at the end of life. The Norns also include a collective of female ancestral spirits called the dísir, who watch over humanity. Additionally, Moon points out that “a common meaning for norn in modern Icelandic is ‘witch’ or ‘hag’.”2

Instead of rehashing Norse myths that can be found in other books, Moon guides readers to discover who the Norns are by fostering intimate relationships with them. She encourages personal gnosis of these divine beings through a variety of exercises, such as “Stepping into the Worlds of the Norns”3 through trance.

As Moon invited me to travel in spirit to the World Tree and visit the Wyrd Sisters, I was flooded with vivid imagery. In an eldritch forest, I saw the World Tree Yggdrasil towering above the other trees, its evergreen boughs silvered by moonlight, dripping lunar dew over the Well of Fate, pooling in an earthen basin formed by the vast network of knotted roots. Three shadowy maidens rose from the depths of the lake, shifting shape. They coalesced into a trinity of spiders, weaving the elastic web of the Multiverse in the boughs of the World Tree. Infinite worlds were reflected in the dewdrops of their infinite eyes. I began to think of Yggdrasil as a human body, my body. My spine became the tree’s trunk, a ladder of bone that could take me up to Asgard, the realm of the gods, or down into the depths of Hel, the Norse Underworld. I realized that all the trees in the forest around me were other people’s World Trees. We live in a Multiverse where everyone is their own Yggdrasil. 

“Everyone has a part of the wyrd, like a web, like a large woven tapestry,” Moon says. “My wyrd intersects with yours, perhaps. Yours intersects and pulls on mine. And all of this is what creates fate and destiny.”4

Together, we all shape Fate as a collective. 

I was drawn to this book because I’m a fatalist. I believe that free will is an illusion, but I think that we should behave as though we have free will, and make responsible choices to the best of our abilities, even if our subconscious mind has already made them for us. It appears to me that there are too many external factors limiting any supposed free will that we mortals may have, from mental programming imprinted upon us as children by our parents and the culture in which we were raised, to societal limitations that limit our mobility as adults. I think that when we act out what we believe is our free will and pursue our dreams, we are in fact acting out our soul’s true purpose and what we are destined to do. We are coming into alignment with our True Will, which is the will of Fate. 

I believe the excessive praise of individualism in Western civilization is harmful to the collective. The emphasis on individual free will and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps blinds us to systemic abuse and allows the continued oppression of large swathes of people. Everyone’s fate is connected. The focus on individualism creates the illusion that individuals are struggling alone. In truth, their struggles are shared with other people in similar circumstances, but in isolation, they are tricked into believing they should shoulder the burden of circumstances beyond their control all on their own. 

I appreciate how Moon compassionately addresses the ways that Fate encompasses circumstances beyond one’s control.

“Dismantling the structures of oppression requires the commitment to uncovering and understanding that people do not all have the same opportunities,” Moon says. “Many are born into places that limit and seek to continue to hold them back.”5

This thought-provoking book had me pondering the shared Fate of the collective, the interconnectedness of people’s individual threads, and how great an impact any word or action, however small it may seem at the time, can have on so many people. I can recall times when the actions of others have inadvertently shifted my path, and I am sure I have had the same effect on other people as well, in ways which I am not aware. Just as Moon says, “I can choose to meet my fate in a way that is honorable and respectful of the collective versus just being out for myself.”6

My sole criticism of this work is that the author’s well-meaning efforts to be all-inclusive were superfluous to the point of distraction. For example, Moon spells the word “gods” with double ds (“godds”), to make it more gender inclusive, which I don’t feel is necessary, because I read the word “gods” as gender neutral without a second thought, and my inner editor kept flagging it as a spelling error.7 

Moon also suggests that the gender of the dísir, who are traditionally female ancestors, may make some people uncomfortable, and “it might be more inclusive to expand this to those who birth or those who mother without being attached to gender.”8 I don’t understand why seeing the dísir as female matrons would be offensive, and I feel that we can learn more about their true essence by examining the traditional perceptions of these ancient spirits instead of projecting modern gender politics upon them. It would be far more interesting to explore why the dísir were perceived as female instead of dismissing their femininity and assigning them whatever gender feels more comfortable. I personally think the focus on female ancestors is beautiful because it emphasizes matrilineal descent, as opposed to our patriarchal society, which frets over paternity and erases the maternal line by only giving children the surname of the father. I feel that dismissing the female gender of the dísir only reinforces these patriarchal views. 

It’s no accident that the maternal line is also known as the distaff line. 9 The word distaff is derived from the Old English, dis, meaning “bundle of flax” and stæf, meaning “staff,” so the distaff is a staff on the spinning wheel that was wound with flax in preparation for spinning. Meanwhile, the strikingly similar Old Norse word dís means “goddess,” and the plural form of dísir means “goddesses.”10 Spinning was traditionally women’s work, and the dísir are the spinning goddesses, the collective ancestral mothers. They are inherently feminine, and I think it would be disrespectful to change that just because their gender might make some people feel uncomfortable.

I see the Thread of Fate as the umbilical cord, which nourishes the fetus in the womb and connects the unborn child to the well of ancestral memory (the well of Urd). When the baby is born, the umbilical cord stretches out and is measured by Verdandi, in that precious and fleeting moment when mother and child are still connected. When the cord is cut by the midwife Skuld, the neonate takes their first breath of spirit, and accepts the destiny that has been gifted to them by the Norns.  

I gained some wonderful insights into my personal perception of the Wyrd Sisters by experimenting with Moon’s exercises. While I prefer a more traditional view of the Norns, I feel that my disagreement with some of Moon’s progressive views produced creative tension that helped me further clarify my own relationship with these potent spirits.

Pagan Portals – The Norns: Weavers of Fate and Magick is a book that shifts one’s perspective from fearing Fate to embracing the mystery of how our individual fates intertwine with the world’s collective Fate and the greater destiny of the Multiverse. The exercises contained within encourage developing a personal connection with these transcendent powers through journaling, self-exploration, and trance work. For those who love journal prompts and guided meditations, this book can facilitate a deeper relationship with the mysterious spirits of Fate who watch over us all and guide us towards our destinies.

Practically Pagan – An Alternative Guide to Health & Well-being, by Irisanya Moon

Practically Pagan – An Alternative Guide to Health & Well-being, by Irisanya Moon
Moon Books, 1789043778, 160 pages, December 2020

It’s hard to look after ourselves sometimes. Practically Pagan – An Alternative Guide to Health & Well-being by Irisanya Moon is a wonderful read to connect body, mind, and spirit for the sake of wellness based on one’s own unique body type and natural energy signature. This book is a delightful refresher compared to the traditional book on health, which neglect the spiritual aspects of well-being and also tend to focus exclusively on an ideal image or diet trend.

After a brief introduction, Moon guides the reader to connect with their body just as it is in the present moment. She writes encouragingly, stating “I invite you to trust your deepest knowing. I encourage you to believe that you can care for your body, mind, and spirit even if you’re not 100% sure what the next steps are.”1

This sentiment immediately set me at ease; it made me curious about this health journey and more receptive to what it might look like for me, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach usually promoted. Above all, trust in myself is what I hope to cultivate and I looked forward to immersing myself in the experience.

I began with a few of the exercises Moon suggested: letting go of old stories, feeling all the feelings, and making a soundtrack. I especially enjoyed creating a soundtrack because I learned more about my body’s relationship to rhythm and sound. Finding my groove was a fun way to move my body and get connected to it. Other practices Moon writes about include mapping one’s body, automatic writing, creating an altar, focusing on being present, and more. She offers details on how to incorporate these practices easily into one’s daily life.

The next three sections focus on the body, mind, and spirit, respectively. I liked going one by one, and starting with the body felt appropriate since it’s the most tangible aspect of my health. Moon got me thinking about what my body truly wants in terms of nourishment, movement, and general energy flow.

”When you have a clearer idea of your energy movements, you can begin to schedule things to follow these patterns. If you’re more in tune with your natural patterns, you are less likely to feel out of sync with your life.”2

This line really resonated with me, and I was spurred into a practice of charting my energy through the day. The result has been useful insight into the ebbs and flows of my energy; I also corresponded it with the moon as well and plan to see if there’s a cyclic nature to how my body feels according to the phases of the moon.

Then, while it wasn’t as fun as the body, I found the exercises to settle my mind the most useful section in the book. For someone whose mind is always on overload, often ruminating or stuck in a pattern (I’m a fixed air sign!), I really benefited from Moon’s suggestions on how to release old thoughts and cultivate stillness through meditation.

Finally, the spirit felt like coming home after tending to the other aspects of my well-being. I loved Moon’s gentle reminders to connect with my daily practice, follow the calling of spirit, and discover our divine.

The rest of the book felt like a myth-buster to common health beliefs, inviting a magical perspective to come through and guide the way. Topics include finding balance (or embracing that life will always be shifting but we can find ways to recalibrate), exploring self-care and how to do it in a way that feels right for you without comparison to others, and developing resilience for when we get off course. Moon delves into the effects of trauma on one’s well-being and offers suggestions on healing through practices that cultivate resilience.

The final section is filled with tools to maintain one’s energy and strategies to set up support systems in order to maintain health and wellness. I appreciated Moon acknowledging the role of supportive friends and family in one’s life, as well as the value of self-support. I found myself thinking about how I can cultivate both in my life to maintain personal wellness.

My greatest take away from this book was Moon’s energetic practice of feeling right sized. Throughout my life, at nearly 6’0 feet tall, I’ve always felt like too much. Since childhood, I’ve always required large or extra large clothes, and I believe to compensate, I learned to shrink my aura as though I could energetically make myself seem more  petite.

Doing the Knowing Your Size practice3 made me feel more comfortable in both my body and energy field. As Moon writes, “Sometimes, you might feel bigger or smaller than your normal self. But in this practice, you can also get better at moving between states of being.”4 I’m continuing to work on this and have been going back to the practice often.

Overall, Practically Pagan – An Alternative Guide to Health and Well-being has been a wonderful tool for reconnecting with my wellness. Moon is very grounded in her approach to this topic and much of her guidance can easily be incorporated into one’s daily practice. I recommend this book for those who are seeking a read about integrating body, mind, and spirit to discover their natural energy rhythm and definition of health. There’s even helpful resources and worksheets at the end of the book, which offer space to write one’s reflections on this journey.

Pagan Portals – Iris, by Irisanya Moon

Pagan Portals – Iris, Goddess of the Rainbow and Messenger of the Godds, by Irisanya Moon
Moon Books, 1789047110, 96 pages, July 2021

When was the last time you saw a rainbow? Seeing one is always such a miraculous gift to me. It feels so spiritual, like a harbinger of blessings. Moments after seeing a rainbow about a month ago, I discovered the book Pagan Portals – Iris, Goddess of the Rainbow and Messenger of the Godds by Irisanya Moon. As Moon describes, “She [Iris] offers magick in the way rainbows form, seemingly from nothing, but truly from the perfect alignment of conditions.”1 With this synchronicity, it was as though the rainbow was calling me to delve into this book.

Moon introduces herself to the reader and gives a bit of background on her experience with Iris, who she connected with to include as part of her magical name. I especially enjoyed reading about her experience with Reclaiming on her path, as all the Reclaiming workshops I’ve attended have been some of the greatest portals to magic!

To start with, Moon provides quite a few stories of Iris to assist the reader with getting acquainted with her mythology. Reading stories of Iris delivering messages for Hera and Zues was interesting, along with realizing she was the messenger sent to Demeter to coax her out of grief at the loss of her daughter Perspehone. I also learned Iris is the consort of Zephyrus, god of the west winds — so cool!

After reading the stories of Iris in mythology and hearing Moon’s thoughts, I really resonated with her view that Iris can teach us about being of service without being in servitude. For any person who feels calls to share their gifts, Iris’s story is a wonderful reminder of the need for personal self-care as well. Moon encourages the practice of self-service alongside serving deities and one’s communities, and relates the story of Iris to the need for this. As she writes, “A tired and burnt out priestess is not a very effective servant, after all.”2

The main bulk of the book is Moon’s magical practice called Traveling the Rainbow. She guides the reader through all the colors of the rainbow, offering exercises to connect with each energy. For instance, doing mirror work with the color orange and water gazing for the color blue. Working the way through the rainbow proved to be quite insightful. I really enjoyed making a collage for yellow and a meditative journey for indigo.

Towards the end, Moon offers ideas on how to do a ritual to honor or petition Iris. There’s an absolutely beautiful devotional poem that Moon has written to Iris that made my heart melt. It is so well written, while also emotionally evoking. She also offers quite a few ways one can create a relationship with Iris through options such as altar building, artwork, journaling, and meditation.

Moon calls readers to be intentional in their work with Iris, and to be honest, gives more background than any book I’ve ever read about the process of choosing to work with a deity and focusing attention on that relationship. She is very honest in her approach to deity work, acknowledging there’s different reasons people choose to work with a particular deity, from being called to building a long-term relationship, while some might just want to create a connection for a specific purpose. It was helpful to read her thoughts, tips, and techniques, and regardless if one plans on connecting with Iris, one would surely benefit from her insight about relationships with deities.

While I have not formally created a relationship with Iris, this book was immensely helpful in learning more about her, her role in mythology, and her special energy. I really enjoyed being immersed in the feeling of rainbows while reading, and within I felt a multitude of colors illuminating my creativity through artwork and time spent in nature. I also did a lot of reflection on the similarities and differences between Iris and Hermes, my patron deity, as they are both messengers that have the ability to move freely through all realms.

I recommend Iris to those hoping to learn more about her mythology, wishing to connect with the goddess of the rainbow, or even establish a relationship with her as a deity. Moon has done a great job of piecing together her story and sharing her method of connection with Iris. As already mentioned, the wisdom of Moon’s work with deity is very insightful and sure to be beneficial to any reading looking to petition or dedicating themselves to a godd. Next time I see a rainbow, I certainly will be wondering what messages Iris is delivering and pause for a moment to give her my praise.