Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Norse Magic

For the ancient Norse peoples magic and ritual were a normal part of everyday life. The Vikings’ beliefs were largely polytheistic, and magic was traditionally seen as a feminine practice. Seeresses and priestesses were highly revered people; they cared for the spiritual and physical needs of the community using herbalism, and they could foretell the future using prophecy, which was especially helpful before a battle.

Seiðr is an old Norse term for sorcery or witchcraft. Sei
ðr involve spoken incantations or ‘spell-songs’ known as galdr. These were chanted to reach higher states of consciousness; which were used to commune with spirits. One would be seated on a ‘high-seat’ whilst communing with ancestral spirits and the deceased. Trance work was occasionally used to receive messages, as was ‘mound-sitting’; sitting on a burial mound or chamber to communicate directly with the dead.

Freya and other Norse goddesses practised seiðr; it was Freya who taught the art to Odin, who was later admonished by Loki for doing so, as it was considered unmanly. It was uncommon to find men carrying out these practices; male roles were focused on politics, and hunting, farming and trading, and the practice of seiðr by men had connotations of unmanliness or effeminacy.

Various scholars have debated the nature of seiðr, some arguing that it was shamanic in context, involving visionary journeys by its practitioners. Accounts of seiðr made it into sagas and other literary sources, and further evidence has been unearthed by archaeologists and historians.

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