Forest Questing in the Hessian Forest

Soon, my good friend Robert was due to become a father. I travelled over to Frankfurt to visit him before his son was due and I wanted to spend part of the time doing something spiritual in the forest, as a type of an initiation for him. I considered doing the ancient Thor’s hammer rite together with him

I had previously arranged a hammer rite on the banks the lake in Hamburg for a friend before a wedding and this was very meaningful and momentous.

I didn’t want to tell Robert beforehand because I wanted it to be a surprise but I wish I had discussed it. Despite doing the research again, I was completely unprepared because we had neither Thor’s hammer or a suitable axe. My own preference was the handmade Swedish axes but I couldn’t acquire either at short notice.

I arrived at night into Frankfurt and we went to bed early so that we could rise early. I explained the idea to Robert and he seemed interested.

The next morning, we woke up early, breakfasted, packed and then drove to a location about an hour away from Frankfurt, to a small village at the end of a train line where a large forest starts.

We parked our car at the train station, put our hiking books on and slung the rucksacks on our backs. We checked the map for our route to the top of the small mountain – about a 10km trek. We set off, passing large Germanic forest houses, with wood cladding, steep roofs and antlers. Some looked imposing hunter’s lodges, some looked like friendly gingerbread houses.

We passed an inn with a beer garden and at that point we had left the village behind us. We then crossed a small bridge over a clear stream. We filled up our metal drinking bottles and then entered the forest.

As soon as we entered the forest, we could sense that it was slightly cooler, the air had a different smell and a different texture – like a different atmospheric recipe. Our ears probed for any noise but the millions of pine needles above and around us hushed everything. It was still everywhere. Our footsteps on the dry leaves were the only noise.

As we walked, we looked for a suitable place to do the hammer rite. The only criteria was that it had to ‘feel right’. After about an hour of walking on the path through the forest, we spotted a small stream with a fallen tree acting as a natural bridge over it. That seemed right. We walked over the moss covered tree and jumped onto the soft peaty clearing on the other side of the stream.

I said that I would demonstrate the rite first. I didn’t have the axe so I said I would visualise holding one in both hands and then I would say a phrase and face all six directions of the universe (North, South, East, West, Up and Down), repeating the phrase each time. Then I would outstretch my arms and visualise the phrase around me in glowing read letters. In ancient times, it would have been glowing red runes.

As I stood there in the forest, saying the phrase, I felt suddenly conscious of being in a forest without an axe, conscious doing the ritual without the prop. I sighed, I closed my eyes and focussed and moved to the next direction, repeating the phrase. I wished I had properly prepared but tried to put the thought to one side as I continued with the rite. Afterwards, I let Robert enter the space and then he did the rite.

Afterwards we sat down on the tree and drank beer together.

As I sipped my beer looking at the stones in the clear stream, I realised I wasn’t able to reach that highly focussed zone to summon up a deeper spiritual energy. To reach this zone, it requires preparation and events to follow a certain order to produce the right environment, the right need and the right confidence to summon energy. I knew how to prepare the rite next time but there was still substantial work to do regarding the mental preparation and the setting.

We refilled our water bottles and continued walking along the path, which now inclined upwards to the top of the forest. After we had discussed the more important elements of the first few weeks of parenthood, we started to incline more steeply. The conversation started to quieten until it stopped from breathlessness and we walked more determined in single file up narrower and steeper paths. My legs started to tire but I felt a determination reach the top of the mountain.

The whole time, up to the weekend, I felt that I was craving the forest. Craving to be in a deep forest away from civilisation, surrounded by endless ancient trees.

We reached the top of the mountain, overlooking the forest around us and villages and cities in the distance. We sat on a bench and ate apples, bread and nuts. After a short break then we started our way back again before we became cold in the wind.

As we descended, we took a different route, eventually coming across a small cliff with some very old oak trees and large rocks. This inspired me to do the hammer rite again. I performed another one whilst Robert rested on a tree trunk. The rite felt more powerful this time and I could hear my voice carry across the tree tops.

Hammer rites and rituals are not just for initiations. They can help us to overcome insecurities by bringing our mind and body together and focussing our energy and life force. I needed the rite just as much as Robert did.

We carried on walking through the forest till we, once again, arrived again at the bridge over the stream to the inn.

I longed for the forest and was sad to leave so I paused before the bridge. . There was one more ritual that we needed to perform. We took of our shirts and shoes and walked into the cold stream and splashed water onto our upper bodies. I drank the water from my hands and cooled my forehead and neck. Settled and at peace, I was then able to leave the forest and cross the bridge back to the village.

That evening Robert’s wife’s water broke five weeks early. They weren’t prepared for the hospital but I’d like to think that my friend was mentally prepared.