A beautiful shaman friend directed me to this book by Brian Bates, and hot on the heels after visiting many sacred sites of the UK it seemed entirely appropriate timing to dive into another aspect of my spiritual and cultural heritage.
It’s an unusual book in that although it reads as a richly written novel, it’s based on the mystical teachings, remedies and rituals documented in a thousand year old historical text known as The Lacnunga Manuscript, held in the British library. The author himself describes his book as “psychological archeology” which alone is intriguing enough to compel me to read it! If you like that summary as much as I do then I know you’ll love the novel.
We follow Wat, a Christian scribe, who is sent on a mission to gather information about the spiritual beliefs and activities of the Anglo-Saxon tribes, and feed it back to his superiors at their pioneering monastery. The book describes what happens to him as he is guided and taught by a native sorcerer/healer, Wulf, who initiates him (and so us) into a living experience of “wyrd” which is the all-encompassing energy (for want of a better word as it’s beyond language) at the heart of Anglo-Saxon spirituality. My aside of the previous sentence has subconsciously hit on an important theme which is reiterated in many different ways throughout the book, that “the threads of wyrd are a dimension of ourselves that we cannot grasp with words. We spin webs of words, yet wyrd slips through like the wind. The secrets of wyrd do not lie in our word-hoards, but are locked in the soul.”
I don’t want to say too much else about the story itself for fear of spoiling your enjoyment but let’s just say that right now, as I’m typing this, I can literally smell and taste the ancient forest which embodies the crucible for this adventure. It’s an immersive sensual experience if you allow it to be, and I would argue that if you approach the story in this way, engaging all your senses, then you yourself will receive an initiation as powerful and life-enhancing as Wat’s.
The narrative has a hypnotic quality that reels you in and, as many other reviewers have said, doesn’t let you put the book down once you’ve picked it up. It’s a few months since I read it in full, but The Way of Wyrd stays with you long after the last page, and draws you back to it again and again. As I walk the countryside now, particularly the more remote areas of Wales where I live, a sight or a scent will often evoke a passage from the book. At times, I am guided to dip into it randomly, and it always inspires and illuminates my path. I like to think Wulf would approve of my bibliomantic approach!
Inherent in this book is the message that while there are different paths to God with diverse rituals, trappings and approaches, as illustrated by the two leading characters, they do essentially lead to one destination and are threads in the same harmonious web of life and being. No matter what your faith or beliefs, your spiritual understanding can only be heightened and complemented by the information shared in these pages.