#Seidr #Heathen #Not Mythology #Resources
I am familiar with Seidr. In fact, I may eventually pursue becoming a volva but not in the foreseeable future. I have sources but much of it is either archaeological finds (and thereby may be an exception instead of a rule) or reconstructed and potentially incorrect historically (or at the very least have some questionable things in it). One thing to know, of course, is that there is no way to be sure what Seidr actually is or was or how it was performed. We have only historical records and writings of people who were not practitioners, likely religiously bias, and not a continuing practice to look at. Therefore it is, as with most of pagan reconstructed or revitalized religions, subject to personal bias and UPG rather than a written or oral tradition to fall back to.
If (and potentially when) I join Seidr, it would be based on three things: my god’s wishes, historically logical assumptions, written accounts, and archaeological evidence, and my personal UPG.
It is good to note that Seidr isn’t just spells, magic, and fortune telling. Major areas of focus for Seidr would be war, sex, and fertility. Manipulating magic would be more used than persuasive magic. Spirit walking is not only a given but expected. An entheogens and herbalism would be studied and used as part of the religious experience. No punches would be pulled. Singing, drums, and dancing would also be a method of conducting their spells and rituals. Divination would be a huge area of focus, involving sitting out and going into a trance for divination purposes or possible spirit communication although realistically self-introspection and meditation probably made an appearance too. (Read meditation as to think deeply and not the new age version of that although periods of rest to connect with the universal would probably be fairly normal as well.)
Practitioners would carry a distaff, used for weaving and would double as a wizard’s staff and magic wand. Often, powerful and renown practitioners would have an entourage of assistance or slaves and would either travel or hold court. They often were consulted, hired, or invited to join war parties. These were powerful people given places of respect when they enter a home. Seidr was likely performed not only out in the woods but also on a raised platform - as I mentioned, hold court so to speak - for major rituals or public ones used to bolster morale or court favor with hosts. A chair is often found in burials, so there may have been a portion of the rituals that required the volva to sit in a trance in the chair, perhaps while channeling deities or spirits in an oracular fashion. Powerful practitioners were often richly rewarded by patrons or villagers given the archaeological evidence but almost certainly not a universal outcome for all practitioners.
All of the above being said, there’s a lot of sources out there and they’re generally classed in one of two ways: personal religious practice or academic. I haven’t read all of these but this is my to-read list (some include rune research as well) or have read list. I’ll make a notation of my opinion of the book if I’ve read it.
Now for your sources:
- Volva Stav Manual. Kari C. Tauring. http://www.germanicmythology.com/original/TAURINGstavmanual.pdf [Crown’s note: I have some serious issues with some of this writing and it is a personal path but certainly a good starting point.]
- Into Viking Minds: Reinterpreting the Staffs of Sorcery and Unraveling Seidr. Leszek Gardela.
- Spinning Seiðr. Eldar Heide.
- Seidways: Shaking, Swaying and Serpent Mysteries. Jan Fries.
- Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic: Ecstasy and Neo-Shamanism in North European Paganism. Jenny Blain
- The Way of Wyrd. Brian Bates. [Crown’s note: a highly researched work of fiction.]
- Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft. James R. Lewis (editor) [Crown’s note: The book’s interesting as a whole but I don’t entirely agree with everything said.It’s an article anthology.]
- Nordic Religions in the Viking Age. Thomas A. DuBois
- The Elder Gods: The Otherworld of Early England. Stephen Pollington.
- Heathen Gods in Old English Literature. Richard North.
- The Viking Way: Religion and War in Late Iron Age Scandinavia. Neil Price.
- Shamanism in Norse Myth and Magic. Clive Tolley.
- Old Norse Seidr, Finish Seita and Saami Shamanism. Asko Parpola.
- Uthark - Nightside of the runes. Thomas Karlsson, T. Ketola, Tommie Eriksson (translator)
- Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: The Middle Ages. Karen Louise Jolly, Catherine Raudvere, Edward Peters.
- Óðinn as mother: The Old Norse deviant patriarch. Ármann Jakobsson.
Original source material:
- Prose Edda
- Saga of Eric the Red
- Ynglinga saga
- Helgakviða Hundingsbana I
- Völsa þáttr
- You may find the Maiden with the Mead (PDF) an interesting read although it’s not directly about Seidr.
- Photo example of someone’s recreation of a volva staff. The original distaff photo is located here.
This is one of those on-going studies for me but it should be noted that I’m not a practitioner of any kind of Norse religion, I’m just arbitrarily connected given my association with Heimdallr and my ancestors being almost entirely from the region.