Ever wondered what upside down coffee cups are doing cooking on the radiator? If you’re Icelandic, you probably already know. If not, remember stories of gypsies reading tealeaves? Since most of us don’t use tealeaves anymore, we reach for the next best thing—the dregs of filter coffee. Icelandic housewives will tell you it’s just a bit of malarkey. But believe me, there’s real methodology to it—apparently each dribble is just like a reading line on a palm. Once, not so long ago, there was no TV and no Internet; it comforted you through the long winter, and foretold the early arrival of a brighter, warmer spring.
Guðbjörg Sveinsdóttir explains to me that although she had seen spirits when she was a little girl, her mother put a quick stop to the nonsense, told her to pull her socks up and get on with a real life. It wasn’t until she was thirty-seven that she truly came face-to-face with the other side.
‘I was here in the room in the now, slumped in my chair, yet really not aware of myself in the present; meanwhile my conscious-self was somehow in the body of an old woman. I was scolding my nephew somewhere out in the country; it was forty years earlier. I told the boy: You’re not allowed to go up the stairs today; you could fall, just like you did before. When I came back to my own body, into the present, the boy was once again a fifty-year-old man standing in front of me. His chin had dropped to his chest. The doctors had only just cut his cast off a few days before.’
This experience is what psychologists refer to as an OBE, or an out of body experience. They are, it appears, quite common, even among the run-of-the-mill while sleeping, in dreams. Quite often the affected will fly over the countryside and visit their friends or relatives, returning to their own body before dawn. Only normally, you don’t enter the body of another, you don’t go back in time, and it’s not the middle of the day.
Guðbjörg refers to herself and her spirit guides (and there are many, but I will get to that) using the royal ‘We’—much like Queen Victoria’s infamous: ‘We are not amused’.
It’s as if They are entirely a part of her, and she a part of Them.
‘As you will discover,’ she says cryptically, sipping what looks like a normal cup of coffee, quite normally: ‘We are all one.’ (I assume she’s talking about the human race.) ‘But, first things first.’
To simply call Guðbjörg a trance-medium would be doing her a grave injustice; as she says herself, ‘If your main purpose is to contact someone dearly departed, then we are clearly not your first choice. There are other mediums who do that very well. We are about providing answers: answers to questions, big questions about the nature of life, the universe, but also the mundane, everyday human things. We call ourselves Ásgeir. We are Information Power.’
‘It’s not easy being a human in the physical world we call Earth. Not easy at all. So, we help, we help people find answers to things that are troubling them; and yes, we do, on occasion, provide a channel for the deceased; but mainly, we help them come to grips with their time here on Earth in the now, so they are better prepared to face all its challenges, take in all its wonders.’
Guðbjörg looks very much like your typical mother of three. She doesn’t gaze into any crystal balls, she doesn’t need a dusty scarf from your grandmother or your uncle’s old watch to find answers to any of your questions; all things are answered by her spirit guides, clearly, concisely and with the very best of intent. But these are only hints, suggestions. ‘We provide information. Decisions are not ours to make, those are entirely up to you.’
Guðbjörg likens herself to a kind of astral psychiatrist; and right now, smack dab in the middle of this kreppa, she is fully booked. You’d need one month’s notice to get an appointment.
So who are They? Well, it’s a very Jungian concept, and it slips in somewhere between the Hindu Upanishads and Tibetan Buddhism, only it approaches things from a modern perspective, referring to Them as departed human souls, rather than gods or bodhisattvas. ‘We are a collective of spirits who once lived on Earth, but have reincarnated so many times that we have entered another phase of life, where life is pure energy. Ásgeir is everywhere in this cosmos, within you and me, these walls and out into the Beyond,’ Guðbjörg says.
They are as one, but many; she is their host, their channel to the physical human body here in Iceland, and They have come to advise. During my research, I come across trance-mediums in the UK and the US, and find the concept of a collective consciousness guide quite popular—almost too popular. The British clairvoyant and self-professed ‘renowned’ spiritual author, Stephen O’Brien, calls Them part of The Great Spirit of Life.
Yet, it’s not as if gods talking as one, Nirvana, or reincarnation are some things we haven’t heard of before. Perhaps it is the familiarity of these concepts that makes them easy—easier to believe…and fall into love with.
Guðbjörg herself says ‘Ásgeir is what we are called in Iceland, but in the US or the UK, other spirit collectives may be called Michael or Abraham.’
When she becomes Ásgeir, she simply snaps her fingers and transforms into another persona. Her face contorts, she sniffs as if she has a cold, or has been smoking too much (she gave up smoking recently) and speaks in the gritty, rumble of an old man—many lives led. Looking at her, you wouldn’t think this was the same woman. Talk about hair standing on the back of the neck isn’t even in it.
I stumbled across one medium in Hawaii who maintains his own spirit guide is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: the very same who fell for the Cottingley Fairy hoax (see Transcendental Iceland Part 1). Lilian Bailey, also classified as a deep-trance medium, was known to work for the Queen Mother; she even received an OBE (this time I mean the one on Sir Elton John’s mantelpiece) for channelling the spirit of King George IV. Others, such as the controversial American psychic Silvia Browne (convicted of investment fraud and grand theft in 1992), speak with single spirit guides. Browne maintains that Francine has led more than forty-two lives on Earth, one of them as an Aztec princess.
Guðbjörg says, ‘Everything seems confusing, complicated, because were are always trying to intellectualise things. Things are not like that. The universe is a simple thing. It’s hard to put into words, because words could never describe what’s out there. Try and describe a colour to a blind person, and you will see what we mean. God, life, the universe are not things you can find by scientific study. You need faith, perseverance and open-mindedness, but more than that: open-heartedness. Open your heart, embrace the spirits, the energy of the universe, and you shall receive; close your mind and trap down the road like a horse headed for the market, and all you see is a very, very long road.’
‘Everything is energy,’ she says. ‘It all comes down to the same thing. From the very depth of your DNA strands, your individual cells, to the very nature of God and the Cosmos. Absolutely everything is energy. If you can start to understand that, then you can achieve almost anything.’
These are certainly inspirational words.
By chance, or perhaps by destiny, Guðbjörgs’s daughter, Helga Maria, walks in as we are talking about cosmic beings. She sits down across from us, her feet drawn up into the large armchair, and every once in a while a wry grin flashes across her face; it’s mostly a sparkle in the eyes. Of course, she’s heard this all before. Perhaps she’s waiting to see if I can come up with something new that might faze her mother.
Guðbjörg explains that contacting her spirit guides is akin to tuning in a radio: ‘The spirits are all energy, working, living on different vibrations. Imagine tuning in to a radio programme, turning the dial, moving from one clear passage of music to the next. In between is static, occasionally you pick up a few garbled words, but when you hit the right wavelength, you’re there, and they’re with you. The only difference, of course, is that the spirit radio is a two way radio.’ I imagine late night American truckers talking to each other on their CBs.
‘Yes, it’s something like that,’ she says, smiling. Then, I realise I haven’t uttered a single word. ‘If you like, I can show you,’ she says. ‘Next week I have a training session. Ásgeir and I help people to contact their spirit guides. Why don’t you come?’
I consider this for a moment—actually for a long moment, but I can’t really find any reasonable excuses to say no. ‘OK. Why not?’ I say.
‘Be prepared to be amazed,’ she says. ‘After this, you will never be the same again.’
- Illustration: Inga María Brynjarsdóttir