I was not alone in my visionary experiences as it turns out that the Externsteine have been a place of visions for centuries.
There are chambers carved out of the main body of the rock that are usually closed to the public. There is a hollow basin in this chamber large enough for a grown man to lie curled up on his side. Imbas, of imbas forosnai, literally translates as ‘between the palms’. A description of the visionary practice of imbas forosnai tells us that the seeker was to lie curled up on their side with their face between the palms of their hands and be very still until the vision came. This position is similar to the fetal position that human babies hold in their mother’s wombs. Imbas forosnai tells us that to understand our fates and claim our courage; we must revisit our time in the womb.
I had the very good fortune to have as a guide a woman whose small group had been allowed to take refuge in the chambers during a lightning storm. They sang to pass the time until the storm cleared. Afterwards they found that the rock formation had functioned as a sound chamber amplifying their voices so that they resonated all through the valley, sounding as though they were a large chorus. So the instructions for dichetal do chennaib, to release one’s voice like thunder, are totally appropriate to the acoustic qualities of the site.
There is a pond at the opposite end of the Externsteine from the rune inscriptions and a single large stone with a hollow large enough for a person to lie down. On my first visit, I had a vision of a carved image of a tree whose trunk is formed from a man and woman embracing on the center of the back wall of this hollow. There was a snake coiled around them tail towards the earth and head towards the sky. The branches of the Tree were replaced with the cross of the Christian crucifixion, so I did not know what the original image of the crown of the tree was.The vision was so clear that I was quite startled when I did not see it on my next visit.
Tenm laida, the song that illuminates, is also described as a blossoming or as a fire in the head in Celtic shamsnism.The image of the blossoming branches of the World Tree being shattered and replaced with the dead wood of the Christian cross was a concise visual description of the destruction of the Saxon peoples. If I took the vision as another instruction from the field of the Runes, the next step in my work was to find a way to communicate the story where the Tree was not crowned with death and destruction but blossomed and bore fruit.
photos by Annette Frederking