When The Way of Wyrd was first published in 1983, few people knew about Anglo-Saxon spiritual teachings – or even that there were any! People of English heritage had been left with the sense that wisdom traditions were something other cultures had. We could learn from them, but we did not have such a deep inheritance from our own past.
I too had felt this way. I was drawn by the beauty of Taoism and Buddhism. But in seeking inspiration, something else was stirring in my mind. Something connected with the landscape of England, with the heritage of the Anglo-Saxons. Inspired as I was by the Easternwisdoms, I wondered nevertheless whether the west might, at one time, have had a parallel way, a tradition for entering the world of the sacred.
I started researching. One day, in the 1970’s, I discovered the key. I found a reference to an obscure ancient text preserved in the vaults of the British Library. It was written in England about one thousand years ago, but reckoned by historians to reflect oral traditions stemming from many centuries earlier. That manuscript is a handbook of healing remedies, sacred ceremonies, and spiritual secrets of an indigenous shaman of ancient England - teachings for today from our ancient past. It became the touchstone for all of my research.
It showed that at the heart of Anglo-Saxon spirituality is the experience of ‘wyrd’. Today, the term ‘weird’ means something strange, bizarre, or supernatural. But in its archaic and original sense, it meant that aspect of life which was so deep, so all-pervasive, and so central to our understanding of ourselves and our world, that it was inexpressible.
Stemming from this essential vision, our Anglo-Saxon ancestors believed in a universe where lines of power ran through the earth, spirits inhabited the trees, streams and stones, and where magicians were able to look into the future through the mysterious power of runes. People understood their universe as held together by an interlaced web of golden threads visible only to the wizards. And still today, The Way of Wyrd transforms our experience of personal destiny – who we are, and how we can manifest our personal potential. It is a way of personal healing. We can use the wisdom of Wyrd to strengthen and empower our lives.
The Way of Wyrd, I tell the story of how an Anglo-Saxon young man is initiated
into the secrets of this great tradition – a view from the ‘inside’
of how it feels to live in Wyrd. It obviously touches something deep within
people, for the huge response to this book worldwide over the past two
decades has inspired many thousands of people to learn more about this
sacred heritage. And since so many people email, write, call, visit, and
ask for training in Wyrd, I decided to seek to republish the book, to
help to recover ancient Anglo-Saxon tribal wisdom and to bring it to the
forefront of 21st century inspiration.
Wyrd is the unfolding of our personal destiny. It has sometimes been translated into modern English as ‘fate’. But it is much deeper than that. It does not see our lives as ‘pre-determined’. Rather, it is an all-encompassing view which connects us to all things, thoughts, emotions, events in the cosmos as if through the threads of an enormous, invisible but dynamic web. Today, scientists know intellectually that all things are interconnected. But the power of Wyrd is to realise this in our inner being, and to know how to use it to manifest our personal destiny.
through a deep connection with wyrd, we are inspired to see our lives
in a new and empowering way. It restores our experience of the healing
power of love, nature and creativity. It is about letting into our lives
the guidance of an extended universe of spirit. It brings ancient wisdom
together with modern science in the service of enhancing our lives, and
the integrity of our human presence on the planet.
Wyrd was rediscovered, and revealed to a modern audience in The Way of
Wyrd, it inspired people who ‘belonged’ to other religions,
as well as those who were seekers outside of an organised religion.
particular, Native Americans have recognised through this book an affinity
with the beliefs and practices of ancient England, and the associated
peoples of old Europe. Their Worldwide Indigenous Science Network are
helping me to establish a research and training programme to recover ancient
Anglo-Saxon tribal wisdom and to bring it to the forefront of 21st century
Europe was populated by scores of tribes, each with their own traditions
and beliefs. But their similarities were much greater than their differences,
especially when compared with our culture today. The Romans divided the
Celts from the ‘Germans’, and until recently historians did
so too, mainly because there seem to be two main linguistic traditions
which can separate some of the tribes. But more recent scholarship has
diminished the supposed differences. Certainly the Celtic culture is better
known, mainly through the early medieval stories of Arthur, his Knights,
and Merlin. But until the recent relaunch of Tolkien, people had forgotten
about the Anglo-Saxon ‘Germanic’ stories. The Way of Wyrd
restores this balance. There are many similarities between Wyrd and Celtic
In recent years our understanding of human consciousness has been revolutionised. Far from working like a computer, our brains are now thought of as being just a part of our ‘mind’. Intuition, imagination and altered states of consciousness are widely recognised as central and crucial aspects of how we think, behave, and feel. This has turned out to be close to the original viewpoint of Wyrd. And in particular, the Way of Wyrd is now in demand as a transcendent, but earth-based analytical paradigm for understanding many aspects of contemporary life.
At the University of Sussex in England, I was invited to teach a course in ‘Shamanic Consciousness’, which soon became the largest course of its kind in the University. Students from a very wide range of academic disciplines signed up to learn about tribal consciousness. It was their realisation of something deep that is missing from our lives, something urgently needed but already available in our own psyche and sacred heritage, that empowered this course.
a psychologist, I have also introduced the concepts of Wyrd to medical
doctors, psychotherapists, ecologists, scientists and people in business,
through seminars, lectures and publications. It seems important to me
that in recovering this ancient wisdom, we connect it with the major concerns
and issues facing people of TODAY, and integrating it into our lives.
our fantasy life has been newly energised by images from this world at
once so ancient and yet so modern. J.R.R. Tolkien has been rediscovered
in film, and his The Lord of the Rings fantasy was inspired by the real
Middle-Earth culture of the Anglo-Saxons and Norse. He was Professor of
Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, and his imaginative re-creation of an ancient past,
consciously written to provide England with a mythology of its own, captures
many of the feeling-states of life in that culture.
Today the teachings of the great wizards of the past are glimpsed not only in the shadowy guise of romantic fantasy figures such as Merlin and Gandalf. The Way of Wyrd tells the story of a wizard and his apprentice in ancient England. But it is not a fantasy - it is based on historical facts, including a one thousand year-old wizard’s spellbook preserved in the vaults of the British Library (commonly known now as The Lacnunga Manuscript, its Library reference is London, BL Harley 585). That manuscript is a handbook of healing remedies, sacred ceremonies, and spiritual secrets - teachings for today from our ancient past. Some of its entries are apparently simple folk remedies, some are more complex sacred ceremonies, and some are encoded spiritual mysteries, where deeper meaning is observable within the manifestly healing ‘charms’.
In manuscripts and books, it is easy to be absorbed by the concepts. But with a manuscript like this, it is important to remember that it is an account of practical work. It is a handbook of a healer, or a number of healers, who worked in ways we would today recognise as being shamanic – herbal medicine is empowered by psychological and especially spiritual attunements. These practitioners in Anglo-Saxon England had various titles indicating their healing and magical speciality, stemming from expertise in making and applying plant concoctions, to being able to become invisible! I use the early medieval term of ‘Wizard’ as an umbrella label for the practitioners of wyrd.
Way of Wyrd brings the wisdom of a wizard from the past to inspire your
life today, and to take you on a journey to discovering the nature of
your own soul.