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.
“Are They God?” I ask Guðbjörg Sveinsdóttir the clairvoyant, referring to Ásgeir, the collective consciousness spirit who speaks through her—also known as Them.
Ask a stupid question get a cryptic answer: “Everything is God.”
And for God’s sake, don’t go asking Them who or what God is. You’ll get precisely the same answer.
At times, I almost feel like I am talking to an old priest or pastor, only one that has lived many lifetimes. Somehow though, Ásgeir never lets you get quite too close, never lets you catch Them out. It appears, at least on the surface, They know precisely what They are talking about. And yet, there is part of me who just doesn’t want to believe all this, I hate to say it—New Age poppycock.
I have the opportunity to ask Guðbjörg all manner of questions since she is driving back with me to Reykjavík from the north of Iceland where she has just given a two day course on how to contact your spirit guide. I’ve been trying to think of something that will truly rock the boat.
How does Ásgeir react when people ask when they are going to die?
She smiles, a kind of Marilyn Monroe twinkle, then says: “Normally They just laugh and then say something like: “Why do you want to know that?” Of course, most people want to hear they are going to live a long and happy life. But Ásgeir are not going to give you anything on a silver platter. They’ll challenge you, prod you. Believe me, They’re not for the faint-hearted.”
Two days earlier I arrive at Ragna’s home around nine thirty in the morning on a Saturday. The houses are tightly knit almost like in some suburban enclave somewhere in the American Midwest; it reminds me of Desperate Housewives, only without the Mexican gardeners, and it’s deadly quiet. I listen for birds, seagulls, sounds of the sea: nothing.
There’s a strange vibe in the air. Maybe it’s just me.
An entirely ordinary looking housewife greets me at the door, says, “Oh, you must be Marc. We don’t all speak English here, but we’ll do our best.” There are twenty people in the living room, all sitting in a circle, bundled up, blankets tucked around their knees, sipping coffee and munching celery sticks. To me, this looks almost like a wedding shower. Most are women between the ages of 16 and 70, but hidden in a corner I notice one man; somehow he almost blends into the furniture.
Later I ask Guðbjörg what kinds of people go to see her.
“All kinds,” she says. “Taxi drivers, politicians, housewives, businessmen, sailors…even writers.”
“What exactly are these people looking for?”
“Happiness, of course.” Many visit Guðbjörg when they are having some sort of a personal crisis; and yes, probably more women than men. One way or another, Ásgeir helps them develop, move on. Some have even been known to go on to become mediums in their own right.
“And why more women?”
“Well you know what they say about women being more in touch with their…emotions.”
At first, Guðbjörg herself guides us through meditation; later, as things progress into trance—and by now a few are breaking down into tears—the gravelly voice of Ásgeir’s collective consciousness takes over. We are told to envision a light that runs through the centre of our bodies—a kind of celestial thread—finally rushing out from our heads, connecting us out into the Cosmos.
In a séance that I attended just a week earlier, another medium, Hildur Clausen, channelled the deceased spirit of Ólafur Trygvasson. Ólafur’s spirit was barraged with all sorts of metaphysical questions, but one bit of arcane knowledge that surfaced struck me as much the same: all souls appear to be connected by some kind of spiritual light-cord whether alive, dead, or somewhere, well, in between. This is one of the theories that appears to be a staple of New Age astral transcendentalism; this, and that the universe is a conscious, thinking entity.
Origins of this silver umbilical cord train-of-thought can be found in the teachings of Indian mystics, but also in the ritual and myth of other indigenous cultures: Native Americans, Inuit, and the Australian Aborigines. Life force appears almost universally to be represented by light, even in the most conservative Christian traditions.
Much of the time, an animated Guðbjörg jumps around the room, strides along the circle from person to person encouraging, cracking jokes, whistling and singing slightly out of tune—and I can’t quite make out the words. At times I see her as a kind of native medicine woman; the only thing missing is a great drum. Perhaps this is truly what Guðbjörg is: a modern shaman.
When we slip into meditative trance, she asks us to imagine that we are in a room, our very own private domain. In another session, we exit our room and come upon a forest down by a lake. Here a wizened old man waits to introduce us to our individual spirit guides. There is not a single person when later questioned who has not met theirs. Some are famous spiritual leaders, numerous claim to have encountered Jesus, Joseph of Nazareth; others unknown individuals: a woman in a red cape, a man named Jon. I myself meet three guides, one of whom—believe it or not—is a Native American by the name of Big Owl. Each of us receive some sort of metaphorical gift: a key to unlock secrets, a candle to guide the way through the dark, a knot to unravel.I start to wonder if what I have just experienced is so way out on a limb? I try to equate these otherworldly visions with other experiences: being regressed by a psychoanalyst, an artist’s inspiration, last night’s dreams.
Is this just vivid imagination working on overtime? Then again, what in God’s name is imagination anyway?
Perhaps there truly is some force, some omniscient spirit—call it what you will –trying to reach each and every one of us through this—cord of light?
There is no way Guðbjörg could have planted all these images into our heads through mass hypnosis, is there?
When I finally get home, I look up ‘Big Owl’ on the internet, and to my astonishment find that a Cherokee Chief of the Appalachian Mountains sometime during the mid 1800s had precisely the same name. He was taken down by a US cavalry bullet before his time.
For the moment, I’m simply struck speechless.
Next time: I attend a séance, meet the spirit of someone who claims to know Adolf Hitler personally, and ask him all sorts of unnerving questions.