In the Icelandic sagas, we hear of groups of seidh-workers who travelled together, or a Völva accompanied by a “group of youths and maidens”, presumably her students, and it is probable that in the old days, oracles got on-the-job training. Today, we have neither the cultural context in which people would grow up knowing about oracle work, nor training colleges which they can attend. What we can do is to provide materials and introductory workshops, with suggestions for further work to develop the skills.
The workshop as we currently present it usually begins with a demonstration session featuring the instructors. The class sessions include an overview of oracular practices, basic trance skills required for the work, an explanation of the oracular ritual, and an opportunity for students to participate, followed by feedback.
When the workshop is presented for a heathen group, it focuses entirely on Germanic oracular practices. When the group is drawn from people with a variety of pagan backgrounds, the focus is more on basic principles, with examples of how they may be applied in various cultural contexts.
Sponsoring an Oracle or Seidh Workshop
To train participants as seers and support personnel for performing spá (oracular seidh) or Core Oracle work for their communities, and to teach members of the host community enough about its history and nature to participate in the ceremony.
The size of the training group will depend on available space and personnel. The minimum number would be 6-12, and the maximum 40, depending on the available staff. Individuals from several different groups in the same area may decide to continue working together after the workshop.
The amount of publicity you will need varies depending on size and nature of local groups and communications available. Distribute a flier describing the workshop and providing information on time, place, cost, etc. If space allows, announce the workshop on relevant e-mail lists and social media, as well as in local Pagan news media and occult stores.
Request people to sign up in advance (last minute sign ups can be accommodated if there is room and they are known to the organizers).
Pre-screen participants by asking them to fill out the background information form. Explain that the form has a dual purpose—to guide participants in a preliminary self-evaluation of their own capabilities and needs, and to help the trainers to tailor the presentation. If people are
uncomfortable with providing the information, offer to return the forms at the workshop. Participants should be asked to bring: cushions/blankets to sit on, traditional clothing for the ritual, including cloaks, a cap, veil or other head covering, and if they wish, drums. A notebook and/or tape recorder might also be useful.
- The trainers are people experienced in oracle work who are doing the teaching.
- The coordinators are people from the host group who manage registration, site liaison, transportation, food, etc.
The training group can include participants at various levels:
- Advanced trainees:
- Advanced trainees are those who already have experience in trancework or shamanic journeying.
- Intermediate trainees:
- Intermediate trainees have a basic knowledge of grounding, centering, etc. and can follow a guided journey.
- Beginners are those who are interested in the religion, and want to provide support for the seidh process as members of the participating community. They may train for supporting roles in the ritual, but will need considerably more training and experience to perform as seers.
- The community consists of those who will be served by the seers being trained, the host group, and the groups from which the trainees come.
The meeting area should be large enough so that participants can divide into 2’s or 3’s with some space between them, ideally with more than one room. It is best if this is available (or another nearby site can be used) for the evening as well. You will need enough chairs to accomodate those who can’t sit on the floor, and cushions for the others. It is useful if there are some kind of kitchen facilities, a place to boil water and refrigerate food, etc.
A sturdy raised chair will be needed for the oracular session. Given sufficient time and resources, a suitable chair can be built from plans we can provide. Otherwise, what is required is a sturdy wooden straight chair, preferably with arms, which can be elevated on some solid base such as stacked pallets, a plywood box, or even a strong table. Cover with a cloth for
appearance and test for stability! Three similar chairs that can be set together are needed for the form in which three seers work together.
Other props may include:
- Several candles or candle lanterns
- A bowl of water for use in purification
- A small dish or bowl of coarse salt
- A drinking horn or goblet and a bottle of water
The workshop requires at minimum two full days—a weekend. If the community (the sponsoring group and guests) can be gathered on the Friday night preceding the workshop for a demonstration, the remaining time can be used for training. Otherwise, the demo will be on Saturday afternoon or evening, and the student seidh on Sunday. It would be even better to run from Friday afternoon through Monday morning, but that is rarely practicable. (Note: an alternate form of the workshop can be presented at a festival or conference).
Each participant should receive the packet of handouts, about thirty pages in all. These can be copied by the trainers and brought to the workshop, or if local copying facilities permit, copied at the site when the final number of participants is known. Ideally, the self-evaluation questionnaire will be distributed by email when participants sign up, filled out and returned before or at the beginning of the workshop, so that the leaders can adjust the focus of the training.
Money and Other Resources
The workshop should pay for itself. Set the fee at a level that will at least cover any costs involved in renting a site, providing refreshments, copying handouts, and travel, room, and board for the trainer/s. The trainers will also need a place to stay. Unless there are places to eat in the immediate area, it is a good idea to provide lunch, tea/coffee/juice for an afternoon break, dinner if the group is working through the evening in the same location, and a snack for the seers after the ceremony. Food should be simple but hearty, and include protein.
To fit into my writing and conference schedule, workshops have to be set up as much as a year in advance. If I am already going to be in an area, I can sometimes stay an extra week and fit in a workshop.
If you are about to attend a seið or oracle workshop, we ask that you fill out a brief self-evaluation questionnare (PDF, requires Acrobat Reader). and bring it with you.