Traditions of the Nordic Völva- Samantha Catalina Sinclair

https://www.academia.edu/1617364/Traditions_of_the_Nordic_V%C3%B6lva

My highlights: also yes, copy paste screws up the reference numbers

  • As I continued to research genealogy on our distaff[1] side –an old English saying for  ‘mother’s side of the family,[1] Merriam-Webster. “Distaff – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary.” Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster Online. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distaff (accessed April 12, 2011).

    [1] Merriam-Webster. “Distaff – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary.” Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster Online. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distaff (accessed April 12, 2011).

  • By Nordic, I refer to Northern Europe; Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Gotland, Finland, Scotland, the Faroes, the Orkney Isles, Shetland, parts of the Baltic, and Germany.[1]  It is important to note that surviving medieval accounts of Nordic paganism were written mostly by biased, conquering Christians whose aim was to divide magic into binary categories of good and evil.[2]  Non-Christian magic was associated with the devil while Christian magic and miracles were purported as “natural” magic created by Yaweh, the singular deity of the Abrahamic traditions[1] Mitchell, Stephen A. Witchcraft and magic in the Nordic Middle Ages. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.

    [2] Conner, Randy P. The Pagan Heart of the West.  Forthcoming.  Page 17. Quote from Quell.

  • The magic arts were practical, not fanciful and were the precursor to science.  Magic evinced a desire to exert power over a perceived cause to produce an effect.[9]   [9] Mitchell, Stephen A. Witchcraft and magic in the Nordic Middle Ages. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.

     

  • Although there were many Nordic wise women who practiced magic arts, the völva held a special position as the community high priestess and medicine woman.[1] In Old Norse,  the word völva means “wand carrier” and refers to the distaff, an instrument used in spinning that völur (plural) appropriated for the spinning of vord (Old Norse for guardian or helping spirit) urd (as in Urd, the name of a fate spinning Norn) or wyrd (Old English).  Wyrd is defined as fate; “destiny intertwined between the weaver and the woven.”[2] [1] Fries, Jan. Seidways: shaking, swaying and serpent mysteries. 2nd Impression with appendix ed. Oxford: Mandrake, 2009. 76.

     

  • A distaff is a tall spool of wound flax fibers to be drawn into cloth while being spun.  Distaff is also a euphemism for women’s work.[1]  Dísir (plural, dís singular is Old Norse for lady) were female ancestresses who could be summoned by the völva to intervene on behalf of the clan.  The distaff (Dís + staff = lady wand) was the primary talisman of the völva.  Perhaps the distaff was literally spun as part of the völva’s ceremonial shamanic practice.[2]

    [1] Merriam-Webster. “Distaff – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary.” Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster Online. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distaff (accessed April 12, 2011).

    [2] Kodratoff, Yves . “Feminine magic in the Nordic myths .” Nordic Magic Healing: runes, charms, incantations, and galdr. http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/feminine.htm (accessed April 13, 2011).

 

  • Seidr or seiðr is Old Norse for an array of magic arts such as shamanic journeying, prophecy, healing, necromancy, shape shifting, dream interpretation and rune spell casting practiced by seiðkonas (female) and seiðmaðr (gender diverse men).[1][1] Conner, Randy P. The Pagan Heart of the West.  Forthcoming.  18.
  • The charmed distaff was involved in spinning wyrd for those who sought the völva’s counsel.[1]  Additionally, seidr could refer to seething, as when a pot boils, evocative of the völva’s ecstatic state during trace.[2]

    The spinning metaphor could refer to the exoteric state of consciousness required of völva “fare forth” or send out a “fylgia” or helping spirit[3]  as she traveled to astral and etheric planes during séance (from Old French, seoir = to sit).[1]  The völva also received spirits into her psyche esoterically. 

    [1] “Seance – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary.” Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster Online. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/seance (accessed April 13, 2011).

    [1] Thorsson, Edred . Witchdom of the True: A Study of the Vana-Troth and the Practice of Seidr. Smithville: Runa-Raven Press, 2011.

    [2] Fries, Jan. Seidways: shaking, swaying and serpent mysteries. 2nd Impression with appendix ed. Oxford: Mandrake, 2009. 77.

    [3] Gerrard, Katie . Seidr the Gate is Open. London: Avalonia, 2011.

 

  • Weaving alludes to a web and the possibility of ensnaring or attracting a desideratum.[1]  An example is the following charm from Merseberg, “Once the Idisi (disir) sat, sat here and there, some hefted fetters, some stopped the host, some loosened the fetters.  Jump the bonds, escape from the enemies!”[2][1] Andren, Anders , and Kristina Jennbert. Old Norse Religion in Long-Term Perspectives: Origins, Changes & Inter actions. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2006. 167.

    [2] Kodratoff, Yves . “Feminine magic in the Nordic myths .” Nordic Magic Healing: runes, charms, incantations, and galdr. http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/feminine.htm (accessed April 13, 2011).

  • In a Sami myth, a woman is able to use magic to pull her husband back to her when he is away.  

 

  • Nordic witches were also known as spákona in Old Norse, or spækona or spæ-wife in Old English, which refers to spae, or “truth speaking” associated with prophecy.[1]  19th century Orkney folklorist, Walter Traill Dennison defines the spækona as having “…all the supernatural wisdom, some of the supernatural power, without any of the malevolent spirit of witches.” He goes on to say that the spækona was “skilled in medicinal and surgery, in dreams, in foresight and second-sight, and in forestalling the evil influence of witchcraft. Such women were looked upon with a kind of holy respect.”

    [1] Fries, Jan. Seidways: shaking, swaying and serpent mysteries. 2nd Impression with appendix ed. Oxford: Mandrake, 2009. 77.

     

  • One way the völva casts spells is by singing falsetto incantations called galdrars with an assembly of others.  Though historians cannot be sure exactly how the songs were sung, some suggest that they may have been howled.[1]  Although assumed to be oral traditions, I propose that galdrars might have been transcribed as magical stave songs.   The contemporary definition of stave is a set of five horizontal lines upon which music is written.[2] In the Middle Ages, Icelandic staves were magical symbols of combined runes that formed an incantation.  These symbols may have been the written form of a galdrar.  Here is an image of a draumstafir magical stave, an enchantment to evoke the realization of your heart’s desire.[3] 

    [1] Kodratoff, Yves . “Feminine magic in the Nordic myths .” Nordic Magic Healing: runes, charms, incantations, and galdr. http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/feminine.htm (accessed April 13, 2011).

    [2] “Staves | Define Staves at Dictionary.com.” Dictionary.com | Free Online Dictionary for English Definitions. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/staves (accessed April 13, 2011).

    [3] “Icelandic magical staves – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_magical_staves (accessed April 13, 2011).

     

  • The importance of wyrd songs cannot be understated.  Clearly the old galdrars must be sung in order to charm the spirits and coax them into interceding on behalf of the völva.  After Þórbjörgr divines the prophecy for the clan, she blesses Gudrun for her participation.

 

  • The völva was a profoundly important figure in proto-Scandinavian and Scandinavian territories.  Seidr practitioners such as Diana Paxson, Jan Fries and Yngona Desmond as well as many others have attempted to reconstruct the old traditions and carry the spiritual knowledge forward to successive generations.   

 

  •   Works Cited

    Andren, Anders , and Kristina Jennbert. Old Norse Religion in Long-Term Perspectives: Origins, Changes & Interactions. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2006.

    Birnbaum, Lucia Chiavola. Black madonnas:  feminism, religion, and politics in Italy. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1993.

    Azerbaijan International Magazine.  Challenging Euro-centric Theories of Migration by Dr. Thor Heyerdahl. The Azerbaijan Connection. http://azer.com/aiweb/categories/magazine/31_folder/31_articles/31_thorazerconn.html (accessed April 12, 2011).

    Dennison, Walter Traill. Orcadian sketches  by Walter Traill Dennison. Kirkwall: W. Peace, 1904.

    Merriam-Webster. Distaff. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distaff (accessed April 12, 2011).

    Fries, Jan. Seidways:  shaking, swaying and serpent mysteries. 2nd Impression with appendix ed. Oxford: Mandrake, 2009.

    Gerrard, Katie . Seidr the Gate is Open. London: Avalonia, 2011.

    Heyerdahl, Thor, and Per Lillieström. Jakten på Odin: på sporet av vår fortid. 2. oppl. ed. Oslo: Stenersen, 2001 “Icelandic magical staves – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.”

    Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_magical_staves (accessed April 13, 2011).

    Kodratoff, Yves. “Feminine magic in the Nordic myths.” Nordic Magic Healing: runes, charms, incantations, and galdr. http://www.nordic-life.org/nmh/feminine.htm (accessed April 13, 2011).

    Logan, Jim, and Partners Scientist. “The Subclades of mtDNA Haplogroup J and Proposed Motifs for AssigningControl-Region Sequences into These Clades.” Journal of Genetic Genealogy. http://www.jogg.info/42/files/logan.htm (accessed April 12, 2011).

    MacMorgan, Kaatryn. Wicca 333:  advanced topics in Wiccan belief; part one of a master class in Wicca. Revised ed. Buffalo, N. Y. Covenstead Press, 2007.

    Magnusson, Magnus. NjaÌl’s saga . Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1960.

    Mitchell, Stephen A. Witchcraft and magic in the Nordic Middle Ages. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.

    “Mitochondrial DNA polymorphisms associated with longevity in Finnish populatons [Human Genetics. 2003] – PubMed result.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12483296 (accessed April 13, 2011).

    “SVIPDAGSMÁL.” THE LAYS OF SVIPDAG. http://notendur.hi.is/eybjorn/ugm/svipdag2.html (accessed April 12, 2011).

    “Seance – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary.” Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster Online. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/seance (accessed April 13, 2011).

    “Staves | Define Staves at Dictionary.com.” Dictionary.com | Free Online Dictionary for English Definitions. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/staves (accessed April 13, 2011).

    Sykes, Bryan. Saxons, Vikings, and Celts:  the genetic roots of Britain and Ireland. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2006.

    “The Saga of Erik the Red – Icelandic Saga Database.” Home – Icelandic Saga Database. http://sagadb.org/eiriks_saga_rauda.en (accessed April 13, 2011).

    Thorsson, Edred . Witchdom of the True: A Study of the Vana-Troth and the Practice of Seidr. Smithville: Runa-Raven Press, 2011.

One thought on “Traditions of the Nordic Völva- Samantha Catalina Sinclair

  1. Pingback: Völva | Exploring LokaBrenna

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s