I adopted Tara as my magical name back in 2012. However I didn’t feel ready to announce it publicly until I had a ‘surname’ for it. There are hundreds of Taras out there. I wanted my one to be special.
Berserker came to me slowly as a combination of a few different things. First of all in May last year (2014) during my stay in Croatia I had a dream:
In a dream Dana (my sister) and I walked up a hill. It looked a bit like Calton Hill in Edinburgh, an old place of pagan worship. Every year Beltane Fire Festival takes place up there. The hill in my dream was somewhat different though. On its very top there was a tree – a very powerful and old looking. It glowed with a very bright light/ flame- orange, red and yellow. The light was spreading across the sky. I was walking towards it and I felt almost weightless. Something in my head told me that this was an ash tree, the gateway to another dimension. As I got closer I was suddenly knocked down by a very powerful force- similar to what happens sometimes during the sleep paralysis experiences. I fell on the back of my head. Some people run towards me. Dana looked scared so I told her: “on’t worry, tell them I’m having an epileptic seizure” That’s how the dream ended. I don’t suffer from epilepsy by the way..
I knew straight away that there was something significant about this dream. As soon as I got back home and regained internet access I started researching symbolic meaning of ash trees. Somehow Yggdrasil escaped my attention. This is strange as I knew about Yggdrasil before- over a decade ago when I developed a strong affinity with Odin. In later years my fascination with Odin eased off somewhat until I almost forgot about him.
It was only during my visit in Inverness at the end of the August last year (2014) when Dana jokingly called me a “berserker” in relation to my rage attacks I suffered from as a teenager. In medieval Norse and Germanic history and folklore, the berserkers (or berserkr as I prefer to spell it) were described as members of an unruly warrior gang that worshiped Odin. They were commissioned to royal and noble courts as bodyguards and ‘shock troops’, who would strike fear into all who encountered them. Adding to their ferocity, and in order to intimidate the enemy, they would wear bear and wolf pelts when they fought, giving them the name Berserker, meaning “bear coat” in Old Norse. Dating back as far as the ninth century, the berserker Norse Warriors were said to be able to do things that normal humans could not. According to ancient legend, the berserkers were indestructible, and no weapon could break them from their trance. They were described as being immune to fire and to the strike of a sword, continuing on their rampage despite injury. They often fought empty handed discarding all their weapons.
According to some sources berserkers threw their shields away as a reminder that their ultimate identity was no longer their social persona. A warrior’s shield and weapons were the very emblems of his social persona and status. In biting or discarding the shield the berserker achieved the unity with the animal world. This idea fits well to the Thelemic concept of the beast.
Some people believe that berserkers trance was achieved by consumption of amanita muscaria- the fly agaric mushrooms. Another theory suggests that their rage attacks were actually epileptic seizures! Sounds like a complete nonsense to me although it makes my dream more significant, especially since I didn’t know this connection at the time of my dream.
As soon as Dana mentioned berserkers I immediately remembered my dream. I remembered also that Odin was my chosen deity during my late teens. I began to search Odin’s background to refresh my memory and I found incredible insights that fit perfectly with my personality:
Odin – “Master of Ecstasy” or The “Furious One “ is one of the most complex and enigmatic characters in Norse mythology, and perhaps in all of world literature. He’s a relentless seeker after and giver of wisdom, but he has little regard for communal values such as justice, fairness, or respect for law and convention. He’s the divine patron of rulers, and also of outcasts. He’s a war-god, but also a poetry-god, He’s worshiped by those in search of prestige, honor, and nobility, yet he’s often cursed for being a fickle trickster. The ecstasy that Odin embodies and imparts is the unifying factor behind the myriad areas of life with which he is especially associated: war, sovereignty, wisdom, magic, shamanism, poetry, and the dead.” (http://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/the-aesir-gods-and-goddesses/odin/ )
Odin’s connection with shamanism is especially significant to me. Not only he put himself through series of ordeals and initiations. He was even willing to take his own eye out in search for wisdom. In berserkers he gave them mad courage in fight. They were his chosen, favourite type of warriors. There was even a theory that berserk possessions were not by the animal spirits but Odin himself. I realised that this MAD courage was necessary for me to complete my shamanic initiation.
Tara + Berserkr
The moment I announced myself as Tara Berserkr Anton’s immediate question was: “Aren’t these two deities contradictory?”
As it turns out they’re not.
First of all berserkers just like many Tara worshipers were placed quite low in their society. Even though during the battle berserkers were feared and admired, in everyday life people avoided them and treated them like freaks. Sometimes they were even ridiculed and bullied.
There are also other similarities in in the cults of Tara and Odin:
Odin was himself a practitioner of seidr- magic and shamanism concerned with “discerning and altering the course of destiny by re-weaving part of destiny’s web!” Seidr not unlike many Tara’s cults was practiced by women, hedge-witches as you could call them. Seidr wasn’t a fitting activity for men, to say the least. A man who practiced seidr could expect to be labeled ergi (Old Norse for “unmanly”) by his peers – one of the gravest insults that could be hurled at a Norseman. While there were probably several reasons for seidr being considered ergi, the greatest seems to have been the centrality of weaving, the paragon of the traditional female economic sphere, in seidr. Still, this didn’t stop numerous men from engaging in seidr, sometimes even as a profession. A few such men have had their deeds recorded in the sagas.” (http://norse-mythology.org/concepts/seidr/ ) Therefore seidr and Tara’s cults both attracted females and feminine men.
A great irony with seidr is that Odin himself was its practitioner! This is one of the biggest paradoxes of Odin. Even now he’s perceived as a very macho/manly type of God whilst in fact he has prominent transgender qualities. Some sources claim that Valkyrias were not so much female helpers but rather aspects of Odin himself. This brings on a very strong trickster aspect to his personality. Perhaps just like Tara he realised that gender roles were a social construct and didn’t apply in the world of spirit.
One more interesting aspect of Tara Berserkr relates to the concept of a wrathful Bodhisattva. Three types of Bodhisattvas exist in Buddhism- peaceful ones, joyful ones and wrathful ones. Even though the wrathful ones appear to be the most scary (according to Sam Webster) they’re in fact the most compassionate ones. Their lack of tolerance towards pain of Samsara makes them act in quite reckless, often violent ways. They’re ultimate destroyers of illusions, passionate warriors just like thelemic Ra-Hoor-Khuit. In this context Tara Berserkr becomes an enlightened mad warrior as well as a simple citizen, placed quite low in the social hierarchy. Disguised just like Odin the Wanderer, leading simple life full of magical insights, connected with my the land and people around me.