Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Fetch: The True Spirit and the Meaning of Life

This is the second post in relation to the human soul complex.  This was intended to be the third chapter in aforementioned book.

The Fetch:
The True Spirit and the Meaning of Life

The fetch has been known and misunderstood under many guises that we as humans have ascribed to it. The following are just a few of our (mis)conceptions of this entity: The Holy Guardian Angel of Ceremonial Magick, The anima/us of C.G. Jung, the fylgja of Germanic lore, the personal god of Victor Anderson’s teachings, the spirit, the genius, the daemon, the double, the higher self of the new age and so on. So that I make myself clear the fetch, as I will continue to refer to it through the scope of traditional witchcraft and northern Germanic lore, is the true spirit of each person. I will go a step further into animism and state that each and every naturally occuring thing must have a fetch of sorts. The fetch is the portion of the soul complex that truly lives on after we are no more. It is what truly carries wyrd from life to life. As we have seen in the last chapter, the soul and the spirit must be different from each other, contrary to popular belief in the modern world. I also believe that many today that write on the fetch oversimplify what it truly is. The focus of much of the magical work that I have performed in my lifetime has been devoted to understanding the soul complex as it truly is, and in doing so I have come up with some similar, though sometimes decidedly different viewpoints on the functions and essences of these bodies.
The fetch is indeed the spirit, but it is just that a spirit. It is an entity separate from us, not merely our double or soul, as other works often claim. It is a spirit. We only exist because of it! The fetch is closer to the Truth of Godhead than we can ever be as human beings. It is a fragment of the “shattered” Godhead that can understand what it must do in order to restore the Godhead to wholeness. It is the guide that we must contact in order to fulfill the Great Work. It is our guardian, because it needs us to complete it’s work. It is everything to human life, indeed to life itself. In short, we need our fetch, but our fetch also needs us. Confused yet? Allow me to explain.

A Brief Look Behind the Veil of “Reality” and the Meaning of Life

As I have already discussed, when the Godhead became aware of itself, in a way, it splintered or shattered. This gave rise to creation and evolution. The fetch, as a strand of Fate, is a portion of the Godhead, and thus close to the Truth, but not quite there. This entity knows what must be done to “end existence” as we know it and restore the Godhead to It’s original state of being (The True Great Work.) Each fetch is a guide to someone or something existing upon the physical plane of existence. For every lich, a fetch. The fetch guides it’s lich through life, attempting to guide the body in a way that will bring the Godhead closer to wholeness. To accomplish this the fetch affects the physical life, thoughts and decisions of the individual as much as it can to keep it on the proper path to accomplish what it must in life. This would be what we might call fate or karma. When something must be done in life, the individual may feel compelled to take a certain action. This is essentially Fate acting through the fetch to cause the individual to fulfill their fate. So the fetch is each individuals own personal emissary of Fate. Now, in less spiritually evolved persons the fetch will affect them exactly as mentioned above through “intuition.” In a normal human being this form of “intuitive contact” is rare and typically comes only at key points in the individual’s life. However, in individuals that have evolved mentally or spiritually beyond the normal human scope the fetch may have a more direct contact with them. This contact can be established either by the fetch or the individual, as in the case of a magician.
We have mention in mythology of the fetch speaking to heroes and magicians in their dreams. Sometimes this is done to protect the individual, sometimes to give them information. We also have record of the fetch preceding the lich in order to act as a sort of scout and protector. In addition we know that certain cultures believed that the fetch would reside near and protect the lich of an individual for anywhere from thirty to forty days following death. This may be a precaution in case the individual’s fate and affairs were unresolved and the soul needed to return to the body. We might interpret this as being what people today call a “near death experience.”
Going back for a moment we might ask, “How does the fetch know what must be done in the life of the individuals that it guides?” The answer is this, the fetch acts as a repository for all the combined fate, both hamingja and orlog, that is gathered throughout the lives that it has “reincarnated” in. This is how fate or “karma,” as many feel the need to call it in the occult today, moves from life to life. We have all heard of the idea that what one does in life comes back to them “in this life or the next.” This is the actual way that this phenomenon works. The fetch must resolve all of the fate that becomes attached to it so that it might return, fully, to the Godhead and let Fate be whole again. We now understand the meaning of life which many have wasted their lives attempting to discover, thinking it to be a more complicated conundrum. The meaning of life is just what is described above. The Godhead is not whole and must be whole again. Fetches are the workers that must see this task is accomplished. The fetch cannot resolve fate on it’s own, it is only spirit, it requires an entire “soul complex” to do it’s work. This is the reason that we exist. Midgard, or the physical plane of existence that we might call “reality” is the game board where fate is played out until the end of time. We are the game pieces, moved by fate through the fetch. In this way we help to shape the future of the universe by our “decisions.” Each action that is taken in life either resolves or creates fate/karma/destiny.

The Three Faces of the Fetch

The fetch has three aspects normally associated with it in traditional lore. These three aspects have different ways of interacting with the human sorcerer or magician that attempts to speak with them. Each appears in a different way and has different “uses” within the magician’s practice. I shall describe the three faces of the fetch and their basic functions below.

The Fetch Beast

Perhaps the most common aspect of the fetch is that of the fetch beast. This is the theriomorphic version of the fetch that might appear to the individual in the form of an animal. This animal may be one that the individual has always had an affinity for, this is sometimes the case for the magical practitioner. Other times the fetch of an individual appears in an unexpected form. Regardless of if the form is expected or not, the fetch’s animal form will be one symbolic of the life and fate of the individual that it is attached to. In fact we have classic examples of the fetch in the form of animals both real and imagined. Some examples of known classical fetches are wolves, owls, eagles, lions, dragons, crows and lynx. This is, of course, not an exhaustive list. I have seen confusion when it comes to this aspect of the being, as some seem to believe that the fetch beast is the witch in “flight” in the form of an animal. As anyone can tell from my previous description, this is far from the truth. This form of the fetch is that which most experience in otherworldly journeying and has given rise to the idea of an animal spirit guide. It may be noted that this is the portion of the fetch which is often seen as going forth before the individual as a protective guide. There is evidence of this in The Saga of Thorstein with the Cow’s Foot. In this tale Thorstein, while still a child goes to the house of his true family and trips as he enters a room. His grandfather happens to be in this room and tells him that he observed the child tripping over a white bear. We may do well to observe this shamanic view of the familiar as an animal spirit guide and note that this would seem to be the origination of the idea of the animal familiar. The god, Odin, was said to have had two such followers, his ravens, Huginn and Muninn (thought and memory, this should give pause to reexamine certain passages from the previous chapter.) Similarly, it was said that Aristeus of Prokennessos would send his spirit from his body in the form of a crow that would exit via his mouth when he would enter an ecstatic trance. The Finns have other such accounts that state that the henki may leave the body of a sleeper, via the mouth, in the form of a small beast, such as an insect or bird.
This portion of the fetch has, in certain cultures, been seen to dwell within the body of the practitioner released in animal form after death. This was true in Egypt where the spirit was seen as a bird which stayed with the body for a certain period of time. We also have evidences in Italian witchcraft of the spirit leaving the body of the individual through the mouth in the form of a red mouse, which has similarities to the story of Aristeus. This is interesting as the Carelians call this aspect of spirit the elohiiri or “vital mouse.” It might be noted that occasionally this form of the fetch would then attach itself to another individual, perhaps to transfer the power and fate of the previous witch into the body of another.

The Fetch Wyf

The second major image of the fetch is that of the “fetch wyf” or “fairy wyf.” This would be a husband in most cases where the fetches of women are concerned. Traditionally this aspect of the fetch is seen to be a contra-sexual spirit of the person whom it guides. In fact the word fylgja literally translates as “the female follower.” In mythology we even have reference to this aspect of the entity coming in contact with the heroes of the tales. In some tales this aspect of the fetch is seen as being passed on, or attached to a family line, if the fetch has a great deal of fate in the form of hamingja attached to a bloodline. This is the truth about the idea of a family Bean Sidhe (banshee.) This can be clearly seen in the medieval tale of Melusina. The tale is a follows:

Raymond, adopted son of Emmerick the Count of Poitou, went out hunting boar with his adopted father and retinue in the forest of Colombiers. Emmerick and Raymond road ahead of the servants and failed to kill the boar. They found themselves alone in this wilderness with night fast approaching, and being lost lit a fire to wait until morning to find their way home. Without warning the great boar plunged out of the wood and attacked the Count. Raymond drew his sword, but his first blow glanced off of the boars hide and struck Emmerick. The second blow struck home and the boar lay dead. Unfortunately Emmerick’s wound had also been fatal and both beast and count lay beside one another. In utter despair and temporary madness Raymond mounted his horse and fled the scene, not knowing where he was going.
Eventually the wood thinned and both horse and rider plunged through the brush to find themselves in a moonlit glade. Mist flowed up from a natural fountain with a stream that murmured over a pebbly bed. Near the fountain sat three beautiful golden haired women in glimmering white dresses. At first Raymond mistook the women for angels and was prepared to kneel in their presence when one of the women approached him. This woman inquired as to why Raymond was so distressed, to which he recounted the dreadful tale of the evenings events. The woman told him that all he must do to avoid suspicion in the truly accidental death of the Count would be to return to the castle, as all of the other hunters have done. She assured him that the fault of the count’s death would fall on the boar, and not Raymond.
Raymond believed her instantly but desiring her for her beauty found ways to prolong conversations with her until the break of dawn. Before dawn she told him that her name was Melusina and promised to be his betrothed, on the condition that she would spend Saturday’s in seclusion and that he would never venture to disturb her on that day, lest they be parted. Melusina then told Raymond that, in truth, she was a powerful water-fay and also possessed great wealth. She then asked that he request of his foster brother, Bertram, who would now be Count, a piece of land about the fountain that could be covered by a buckskin. He consented to this and did so straight away, upon returning to the castle.
Bertram granted his foster brother’s wish, but was a bit agitated when Raymond used his cunning and cut the buckskin into threadlike strands from which he was able to make the skin cover a piece of land. Melusina used her magical gifts and created a magnificent palace in the spot that was decided upon.
Soon after the two were wed in the palace. On their wedding night
Melusina again implored her husband to not disturb her on her personal day.
Raymond, again, readily agreed to this. Melusina expanded the
borders of the palace until there were none so grand as could compare to it.
She named this glorious castle Lusinia, after herself.
In due time the Lady Melusina bore many sons to Raymond. All of these children were disfigured in some way. Two of these children were Geoffrey with the Tooth, whom had a boars tusk protruding from his jaw, and Freimund, who was very pious and entered into a monastic life. Most of the other children grew to become warriors and heroes.
Years came to pass but Raymond’s love for Melusina stayed as strong as the first night that they had met. The fortune that had come to Raymond from Melusina spread to his real brothers and true father, the Count de la Foret. The Count spent the last few years of his life living with his son
and daughter in law.
One Saturday night at dinner the Count enquired as to where the Lady went every Sabbath eve. Raymond said only that she was unavailable on Saturdays. One of Raymonds brothers then informed him that there was gossip to the effect that he should inquire as to the true nature of Melusina’s weekly retreats, if only to settle the wandering minds of the people. Raymond grew anxious at this news and rushed to Melusina’s chambers. All were empty save for a bath chamber which was locked. Raymond peered through the keyhole and saw his wife submerged in water, her legs replaced by a white and glimmering fishes tail. He immediately withdrew and never spoke a word of what he had done, for fear of losing his wife.
One fateful day a rider bore news to the Castle that Geoffrey with the Tooth had attacked the monastery of Malliers, where his brother Freimund lived, and burned it to the ground killing one hundred monks and his own brother. Raymond was beside himself. Melusina attempted to comfort her husband, but he was so distraught that upon approaching him he exclaimed, “Away ye serpent who hath contaminated my most honorable lineage!”
This gave him away and Melusina fainted. When she awoke she tearfully embraced her husband for the last time and asked that he care for the two young babes that she would be leaving in the cradle. She proceeded to tell him that though he would never see her again, she would be seen by all of his successors, hovering over the castle, whenever a new lord would come. With that she gave a long wail and swept out the window. It was later said that her form could be seen hovering above the castle each time a lord of the line would die.

We can see several telling points in the above tale which make it easy to translate as a tale of the fetch wyf. First and foremost, Raymond first sees Melusina at a fountain in the wild while in a state of distress. We can see that the state he is in at this time could send him into a trance state that he might not normally enter. The fountain that he discovers is possibly an entry point or gate to the underworld. It must be noted that waterways are traditionally seen as passages for spirits. When he meets her she automatically knows that he will not be blamed for the accidental death of the count, and that his foster brother will grant him the land that he asks for. This would be strange if she were not his fetch and already aware of Raymond’s fate. Melusina then lays down rules that Raymond must follow if they are to be “wed.” This is of course symbolic of the Sacred Marriage or Hieros Gamos, so often discussed in the occult, a topic that I have already touched upon. This is the true Sacred Marriage, the binding of the soul of the man and his fetch. It should be mentioned that such unions between a fey creature and a human being are common in folklore, and I believe them to be symbolic representations of the Sacred Marriage.
It would do well to understand that this story teaches us to listen to the advice that our fetch gives to us for living our lives. After the marriage Raymond lives quite happily, bringing wealth and comfort to his entire family. This, of course, is symbolic of being on the correct path in life and following one’s fate, never resisting what must be. When one’s fate is followed, all that one truly needs (indeed all that is intended for the individual) shall come. When Raymond goes against the wishes of his fetch, he attempts (unwittingly) to defy his fate. This brings about Melusina’s leaving and he is heartbroken. This is Raymond losing all that made him happy and content for moving against what has been laid down for him. Melusina returns to the shadows, never to present herself to Raymond again. In this way he has also been denied the realization of his fate. In the end Melusina seems to become the form of fetch that is attached to an entire familial line. This, I believe, is due to Raymond’s refusal to adhere to the advice he was given. This fate attached to his entire family (hamingja,) and so the fetch responsible for Raymond’s life attached to his decedents as well.
We can now see that this humanized aspect of the fetch is there so that we as human beings can identify with it in order to commune with it and, eventually, perform a true Hieros Gamos and wed our souls and spirits together. This is the true work of any witch, magician, sorcerer or occultist. In future chapters I shall provide methods by which this work can be accomplished.

The Fetch God

The “fetch god” as I refer to it, is the third face of our fetch. It is by far the least relatable side to the human being. Oddly enough, when this aspect appears it is in the form of a geometric shape. This would give more credence to the theory that since there is not such thing in the (physical) universe as a perfect sphere then god (Godhead complete) is the only perfect sphere. Other spirits, such is this divine face of our own fetch, may appear as geometric shapes, but only Godhead can be a perfect sphere, for in it’s complete form it is the only perfect thing in creation. This is the face that acts as a direct repository of fate, and is closest to the godhead. It can sometimes be seen by those who possess “the sight” as a shape emerging or going out from the individual’s body, as if a protective shield. As the portion of the fetch closest in relation to godhead, it is the most difficult aspect for us, as humans, to deal with. Thus we tend to work more closely with the fetch beast and fetch wyf.

The True Familiar

It should now be noted that the fetch is the true familiar. This is not to say that other familiars cannot be acquired by the practitioner, (in fact I shall deal with this subject later in the book) but that the fetch is our true familiar. As I had stated earlier, the fetch can be asked to perform tasks that we ourselves cannot accomplish. I am of the belief that tales of witches at the Sabbath receiving their familiar’s from the Devil is a code. This, I believe, is meant to be interpreted as the witch being taught how to commune with the fetch, either by the coven’s magister, or by the Master himself while in trance. There are an abundance of tales of the Devil bestowing a familiar upon the witch. In these tales, and in the old “witch hunting” manuals, there were strange hybrid creatures that would appear as familiars, giving testimony to the fact that not all fetches fashioned themselves after real animals. One example of this was in the testimony of the witch Jane Wallis. Wallis claimed that the Devil had granted her two familiars, Grissell and Greedigut, whom came to her in the form of dogs with the bristles of hogs upon their backs. In the instance of Bessie Dunlop she was granted a familiar whom she called “Tom Reid” who appeared in the form of a contra-sexual human being. In the case of Isobel Gowdie, she named the familiars of her entire coven and all seemed to resemble contra-sexual fairies. There exists an old woodcut from 1579 that depicts a familiar in the form of a hedgehog/owl hybrid.
It was said that a witch had to “feed” the familiar as we know that fulfilling fate does. This, however, was taken literally and it was said that a witch would have a teat or mark upon their body that the familiar might suckle. This mark was said to have no feeling in it and the belief led the “witch finders” and interrogators to prod and prick the bodies of supposed witches to attempt to discover the mark. I believe this to be symbolic as well, or misunderstood. I believe that this is a reference to the “witches mark,” or “Mark of Cain” which demonstrates that one is destined to work with the spirit world. This would lead me to believe that those with the “mark” would be destined to seek spiritual council and in turn work directly with the fetch. Below I include several old woodcuts depicting witches’ familiars.

Illustration from The Wonderful Discovery of the Witchcrafts of Margaret and Phillipa Flower, daughters of Joan Flower neere Bever Castle: executed at Lincolne, March 11th 1618. J Barnes. 1619.
Illustration features all three sisters and their familiars.

The above mentioned hedgehog/owl looking hybrid familiar taken from A Rehearsal both strange and true, of heinous and horrible acts committed by Elizabeth Stile, Alice Rockingham, Mother Dutton, Mother Devell, notorious Witches, apprehended at Windsor in the County of Berks, 1579

A witch feeds her familiars, from a woodcut made in 1579

Three witches ride upon a pig-like familiar to visit an ill friend. Taken from The Witches of Northamptonshire, 1612

A practitioner rides upon the back of a goat, presumably a familiar, woodcut from 1626

A witch sends a familiar to take revenge on a neighbor, from A Rehersal both strange and true, of heinous and horrible acts committed by Elizabeth Stile, Alice Rockingham, Mother Dutton, Mother Devell, notorious witches, apprehended at Windsor in the County of Berks, 1579

A famous woodcut depicting Matthew Hopkins, “Witch Finder Generall” interrogating witches. Taken from,Select cases of conscience touching witches, 1646. In this scene we can see hybrid creatures, real animals and strange mutations. Note the bull/greyhound hybrid, called “Vinegar Tom,” and the spaniel that has no legs. We also get a plethora of the names of these familiars.

The Devil bestows a familiar upon a witch, woodcut 1720

In these woodcuts we can see examples of the practitioner with hybrid forms of the familiar, which in the fetch can be seen as the individual needing multiple aspects of the symbolism embodied by all of the animals in the hybrid. We have an image of a practitioner feeding familiars which we can interpret as the fulfilment of hamingja and orlog sustaining the fetch through the athem. In addition, in the case of multiple familiars (that is familiars which are summoned or created) the practitioner is supposed to have fed them with offerings. I will discuss this more in depth later, for now we are concerned with the fetch. Next we come to our view of three witches riding upon a familiar in the guise of a pig and the image of one witch upon a goat. Throughout the witch trials witches were seen as riding to the Sabbath on besoms, stangs and animals, most often goats. This can be viewed through the scope of sending forth the our hyde to attend the Sabbath, or make any other form of otherworldly journey. This can seen as being accomplished in one of two ways, whichever is true is not of consequence, only the result matters. The first way that is that the practitioner actually ventures forth embodied in the hyde, in this case, aware of the incident or not, the practitioner would be guided by or “riding” the fetch into realms of spirit, as a “vehicle” which can access spiritual dimensions would be necessary. The second theory as to how this would be possible would be that the practitioner would remain within the body, but have the experiences of the otherworld by experiencing what the fetch experiences while there. Both of these theories are, of course, assuming that these experiences are more than just psychological ones and are in fact “true” mystical experiences.
We also see here a witch sending forth a familiar to attack a neighbor. This idea is backed up in some of the old lore wherein we find a tale about a woman and her familiar who comes to her in the form of “a yellow dun cat.” The had first presented itself to her by the fire one evening that she was fretting over having fallen out with a neighbor, and wished vengeance for whatever wrong he had done to her (the tale is vague on this point.) This cat listened to the woman’s story and told her that he would serve her, as he had previously served a woman in Kent. He said that her neighbor had misused her and that he (the cat) would torment him. She sent this cat who then killed three of the mans pigs and one cow (it might be noted that this particular attack seems to have similarities to earlier accounts of attacks by elves and fairies.) The man, who apparently knew how to rid himself of such nuisances, burnt a pig alive and the cat could no longer torment his livestock. The cat was then sent and returned stating that he had given the man “that which he would never recover” and shortly thereafter the man passed away. It is still believed, in certain circles, that the fetch can be sent to do harm by attacking the fetch, or other spirit bodies of another individual.
In the illustration of Matthew Hopkins I have drawn attention to the familiar, Jarmara, which appeared as a legless dog, but crawled on it’s belly like a serpent. This, may well be a serpent/spaniel hybrid familiar. The purpose of such a hybrid escapes this author, though in this case the creature may be more fancy than true spirit. The second that I have drawn attention to is a bit more intriguing, however. Vinegar Tom, the ox/greyhound familiar, is a bit more interesting considering our purposes. Not only did the spirit appear in hybrid form, but was exorcized and told that it should return to the “place provided for him and his Angels.” When this was done the entity transformed into a contra-sexual spirit (a young child of four years old in this case) with no head. It turned about the house half a dozen time then disappeared at the door. This entity seems to have two of the shapes that we are looking for clearly displayed in the account, both animal and contra-sexual human forms.
In conclusion the fetch is both guide and companion to the magician, witch and occultist. It can be communicated with and acts as a teacher, friend and colleague. It, as other spirits, can be asked to do one’s bidding, but this is not the true purpose of the fetch. The true practitioner of the magical arts seeks to learn spiritual mysteries from the fetch and to forge a bond with it. This bond, of course, is the Hieros Gamos and the methods by which it can be achieved will be covered in future chapters.