About 29 years ago, when I was 11 years old, I had an experience that changed me. I was skiing very fast down the side of a hill when I all of a sudden saw a ski jump made of snow right in front of me. Someone had built it without me knowing it, and I was skiing so fast that I had no chance to avoid it. Rather than be thrown into the air by the jump I simply went straight through it - but to my surprise my body was thrown into the air. Yes, I left my body. I entered a world completely silent and comfortable. I saw my own body flying through the air, rotating around and around, in very slow motion, and I then flew upwards into a light that eventually surrounded me completely. It was bright, but not blinding. It was neither warm nor cold, only perfectly comfortable. I don't know how long I was there, because I was in a realm with no time, or rather beyond time. I know this sounds silly but this is how it felt; it felt as if the light smiled at me and embraced me. I was perfectly safe, had no worries and I was simply happy. But I also understood that I could not stay there forever, and then I fell. All of a sudden I was sitting on top of my body, on the head itself, and I realised that my body had risen from the snow and that it took a few steps before it fell down on its knees again. Everything still happened in slow motion, but time sped up and I could hear screams of pain in the distance. My own body was screaming down there. Then my body took off the helmet and, as sounds became clearer and time sped up lo normal speed, everything turned red - from blood. I was back inside my body and I saw my brother standing there, next to me. I spoke briefly to him; «Don't let mom see me like this», because I knew I was a mess and that she would freak out if she saw me in this condition. I had crushed the right joint of my jaw, but most of the blood came from a wound caused by a ski pole which had pierced me right in the face (so I could actually stick my tongue through a large hole in my face). The whole thing went by without me feeling any physical pain.
Naturally I have wondered what this experience really meant to me and I have read a few books about similar experiences, but at one point I was satisfied with the most scientific explanation; my brain had protected me from this painful experience by moving my consciousness to a part of the brain where it would feel no pain, and only saw what essentially was an illusion - or rather a hallucination. I never left my body. I never really saw anything. It was just a defence mechanism activated to protect me from pain.
What puzzles me though is the testimony of those who have had similar experiences, and who have actually seen things their bodies would not have been able to see, or even heard things said in another room located nearby. How would any brain be able to do that? Another thing is the fact that through all ages men has told if not the exact same then at least a very similar story; they leave their bodies, they see a comfortable white light from outside their bodies, and they return to life changed forever. Most commonly; they no longer fear death.
If you look at the rite of passage, the old European initiation ritual, you can easily compare it to these experiences. The body (i.e. the clothes) is symbolically killed (i.e. hung in a tree) or at least wounded by a spear and the person who does this leaves his «body» and enters a spiritual world in the realm of death. In this realm he learns something sacred and important from a woman and is then «re-born» as a new and better man.
So the question is then naturally; what if our forebears actually based this ritual on these after all fairly common near-death experiences, which they too must have experienced? What if the symbolic effect of the ritual does the same to a person as a «real» near-death experience? The experience of this ritual might perfectly well feel as sacred and important as a real near-death experience, and it would then naturally also have the same effect!
Now, what is this effect? What could this experience possibly do to a person? Maybe nothing, sure, but why would it then be so important to our forebears to have people go through this ritual? Maybe this experience would connect them to the the spirit world? Maybe activate an ability or a sense that lies dormant in all Europeans - a sense we all used to have when we were pure Neanderthals, which we now need to kick-start, so to speak? Maybe turn on intuition as a sixth sense? Maybe just remove the fear of death? Maybe it enabled the modern European man to become more like he is supposed to be like. Whatever it did I at least feel enlightened by it, and I certainly don't fear death - my own or that of others. I feel blessed; aided, helped, supported and guided by... something good. By a divine force. By the deities. By the gods!
So, if nothing else, you now know why I, through my life, have focused so much on the journey to the realm of death, on the death of Baldr, on Baldr (Bragi) and Îðunn (Nanna). It feels as if Baldr («shining white body», «ball») is that white light which surrounded that 11-year-old boy, and he made a great impression!