Thursday, July 24, 2014

What is Seidhr, and is it Runic?

Seidhr is a term getting more popular in recent years. It's sometimes used as a catch-all term for "sorcery" or "magick" in the ancient northern traditions. However, how common was it, and does it have anything to do with runes and modern rune magick?

Well, yes and no. Rune magick is not directly connected to Seidhr, however elements of Seidhr can often be present in historical rune magick, or were actually targeted for nullification or destruction by some forms of rune magick. Seidhr is in many sources referred to as "shamanism" or "trance-magick". It likely involved an intense amount of meditation, and perhaps even an alternate understanding of language and tonality. The sounds produced in the voice of a master of these arts would at times have seemed ethereal and unnatural. In addition it's possible that the more martial aspects of seidhr-usage may have involved a thorough knowledge of the body and its various pressure points and energy flows. 


What is known is that a number of charms and symbols were used to purposes of disguise, concealment, and even shape-shifting. The primary vehicle in this art was the channeling or "seething through" of a spirit, wight, or God/Goddess. There are some rumors that seidhr may have involved mind-altering substances, as has sometimes been alleged about the "Mead of Inspiration" mentioned in the Eddas, and likewise about the Vedic Soma, the proto-Iranian Haoma, or the substance allegedly used in the Eleusinian Mysteries of the ancient Greeks. However as I shall elaborate later, I doubt the entire basis of this theory, and in reality there is NO substantiated proof that any sort of hallucinogenic drug was used in seidhr, nor would there have been any purpose for such a thing in any practical Indo-European magick.

I do not endorse ingesting any sort of mind-altering substances as a part of runemagick, seidhr, or any magick ritual, and it is interesting to note that its use was primarily in neolithic Turanid and Semitic herder cultures which influenced early Mediterranean occult traditions, and thus is a poor model for making any assumptions about seidhr (or rather, seiðr). 



Freya by C.E. Doepler (1882)

Interestingly, this form of magick was mainly done by women. It is said that Frejya was the mistress of this art, and taught it to Odin, who later passed it on to the Aesir. Among all cultures that honored him, Odin was considered the wisest of the Gods,  and yet he did not hesitate to consult the spirits of long-dead Volvas or even become a student of Frejya to gain her hidden knowledge. Odin does these things because he is a perpetual seeker; otherwise he would not have become the wises of the Gods, and he is never satisfied with stagnating, but always seeks new knowledge without fear - even if it is of "feminine" or indirect sorts. The rest of the Aesir, according to the Eddas at least, tended to abstain from seiðr, although this can partly be attributed to the bias of the authors who wrote down much of the content in the Eddas and Sagas - many of them were Christians with a very negative view on any form of magick, and seiðr's association with "wise women" may have strongly tainted their descriptions of the practice. It is then not entirely surprising that in their writings they may have spoken of it as "un-manly" (ergi) or even having homosexual overtones if practiced by men. This is a textbook divide-and-conquer tactic the Church historically used to weaken and implode "pagan" societies - to sow distrust between its men and its women, or even between its warrior men and mystic men, recasting its magick/mystery rites as some sort of corrupt depravity concealed behind religious or mystical language and garb - thus by subterfuge gradually tempting the warriors, farmers, and less esoterically gifted individuals to begin distrusting and despising their own culture's sacred mystery traditions - and by extension their own culture. It proved to be a far more effective conquest tactic than the early Caesars' method of costly brute force invasions.

As a result of centuries of the activities of missionaries introducing confusion into the poetry and language, and even through their kidnapping and raising of Norse children as native "Trojan Horses" to convert their own tribe from within, some of the same Heathen men whose great-grandfathers had looked to the Vitki and the seiðr -master for advice and guidance with all the reverence of a seeker themselves,  began to  consider their native art of seiðr as "unmanly" and suspicious, the art of witches and midwives living on the edges of the town, whose secrets were only shared with women, and who only ever intruded into the affairs of men as either portentous doomsayers or as malevolent hexers. The persecution of such women as "witches" by the Church needs no introduction. It became all too easy once even Heathen society had been overtly turned against them as already aforementioned. Indeed, it may be argued than even before the official Christianization of Denmark Sweden, Norway, and Iceland had been declared by kings such as Haakon and Olaf, many proudly Heathen Norsemen had already been slowly influenced by Christian attitudes against sorcery, to the extent that some of the common law codes in these regions  declared that a man practicing seiðr  would be punished by outlawry,  and that for a man to even be accused of practicing seiðr  required that he must challenge the accuser to a duel (hólmganga ) and win, to avoid being exiled and outlawed.

Odin was thus presented as a misleading contradiction by the Christian scribes who copied the Eddas and wrote polemical works such as the Gesta Danorum - both a masculine war-god and an effeminate "possessed" shaman being submissively and willingly "ridden" by spirits and wights. In reality the channeling of spirits or energies through seiðr  was not a sexual form of magick at all, but the propaganda served its purpose. For this reason, the idea has been propagated even in modern academia (which largely takes the viewpoint of Christian transcribers of the lore as fact, without question) that Odin was not as popular with the heathen Norse farming class, or arguably even some of the warriors, as Thor and Tyr. How true or false this characterization was may never be known, but there are some very good reasons to doubt it. What ancient Heathen Norse men, before contact with Christianity, really thought of seiðr, may be impossible to know. But it is known that Berserkers were practicing a form of seiðr as they went into their war-trance of fury. And nobody who still had his head on would ever refer to them as "un-manly". And it clearly survived throughout the Viking age, with both male and female practitioners, so the Christian spin doesn't seem to hold up under what scrutiny is still possible. 

While seiðr had different forms, it is likely that its (pre-Christian contact) male practitioners saw it not as being "ridden" submissively by some arcane spirit, but rather as channeling a powerful energy and harnessing it for their own needs - be it the energy of gods or land-wights or even the elemental forces of the Runes themselves - which, if we remember that Odin had to gain knowledge of them through a brutal initiation of self-sacrifice and was only then able to build great words and deeds, makes it clear that the Runes are a higher energy than the gods themselves - the Runes being , in Asatru parlance, the very elements and energies of creation, the secret keys to the universe and time. And though 
seiðr  is not a Runic art per se, the practice of Runic meditation may be though of as applying the basic techniques of seiðr  channeling or invocation to the unconscious Primal Energies underpinning each of the runic symbols.

Yet this is not a clean-cut dichotomy, since in the Hávamál, Odin claims that his tenth rune song (which the Armanen system equates with the Ar rune, or the rune of the rising sun) is a form of magick that actually confounds and defeats witches, ostensibly he is referring to female practitioners of seiðr


A tenth I know: when at night the witches
ride and sport in the air,
such spells I weave that they wander home
out of skins and wits bewildered. (Hávamál, verse 154)


Thus the mischief of the "chaotic" possession-witchcraft of the night is defeated by the ordered and constructive sun magick of Odin, heralding the sunrise and the dispersion of malevolent hexers.


The following material offers a detailed breakdown of seiðr and other magickal practices among the Norse and Germanic peoples. Not all of it is pertinent to rune magick (certainly not the ancient forms), and not all of these arts were even considered compatible with each other, but a great deal of this material may be relevant to those who wish to practice modern invocative rune magick using the Armanen or Younger Futhark systems.



Who practiced Seiðr?

The ancient practitioners of the different disciplines of Germanic magick, whether in Scandinavia, the British Isles, or any part of Grossdeutschland, were always highly respected professionals whose services were valued by their communities. In the Norse sagas, as well as southern Germanic epics and romances, men as well as women appear practicing the shamanic or "channeling" form of magick known as seiðr , however, it is explicitly stated in several places that by doing so these men were immersing themselves in a female art so thoroughly, that even without the "homosexual" taint imparted by Christian propaganda, it still could have sometimes endangered their reputation and manhood (Ynglingasaga, ch. 7, for example). Since shamanic magick among the Norse was so intrinsically a woman's art (indeed, an innate calling for psychic phenomena was almost seen as a natural gift for women in some tribes), it is a fact that seiðr was always spoken of as practiced by women, using the feminine pronoun, but it should be remembered that there were seiðr-men (seiðmaðrar) as well as seiðr-women (seiðkonar) practicing the art as recorded in the sagas.

Many of the most important practices of the old Norse religion had nothing to do with warriors, Berserkers, bladesmiths, or even rune-masters, but occurred in the housewife's domain, where she would often act as priestess or gyðja for the family, particularly in cases of the homestead's remoteness from other families or the absence of a nearby local gyðja for the entire community . Perhaps from the time of the very first neolithic Indo-European migrations, certain women were revered by many Indo-European peoples as being holy, imbued with magickal power, and with a special ability for prophecy or "seer-ism", a reverence which endured in Celtic and Germanic cultures until the arrival of Christianity. It is therefore necessary when examining texts pertaining to ancient Heathen women in general, and especially women involved in magickal or esoteric activities, to watch out for Christian attitudes in the text in question, and the effect Christianity may have exerted upon the author who wrote it. 

Christian accounts of Norse culture, especially those describing the conversion of Scandinavia, have, almost without exception, a hostile view of magick and Heathen religions, rhetorically transforming Gods into "devils", wise sages and clairvoyants into malevolent "witches", and those practicing any sort of magick into the most perverse and evil criminals. The further an account is removed in time from the pagan era, the more confusion and inaccuracies creep into the its descriptions of Heathen practices. This is especially demonstrable in the confusion over the concepts of seiðr and spá (see below).

It has been noted that women's mystical and ritual activities in many cultures were always associated with their socially accepted and defined roles. Sometimes women's magick and the deities they honor reflect their domestic duties, while at other times magick and religion are the antithesis of a woman's expected role, acting as a secret outlet for revenge when a legal recourse is impossible, but abhorred by the warrior chiefs who often define a woman's role in the tribe. This is likewise true for magick in the Viking Age, when the stable tripartite society of Farmers, Warriors, and Mystics/Priests had broken down, due largely to the aforementioned subversion of the Church, as well as the simple greed to which its herder attitude opened the doors - and the Mystics/Priests who had once led the Folk were increasingly being relegated to marginal figures by a more materialistic generation of warriors, "suspicious" and only consulted as needed. The woman-mystic of the Viking Age thus found magic in her spindle and distaff, wove spells in the threads of her family's clothing, and revenged herself on the powerful using the skills of sorcery.

Telling Seiðr apart from other Germanic magick

Magick as described in the Norse sagas was not a single art: there was seiðr, spá (spae),galdr, and runic magick (the last two being often treated as a single discipline), and quite possibly other categories of magickal arts that the saga writers either failed to discuss, did not properly understand as they were the province of women, or dismissed as simple superstition if they were living during the Christian era.

Seiðr

Of these terms, seiðr is the most common, though ultimately the most difficult to define. The term seiðr is commonly translated as "witchcraft" (which really tells us next to nothing on its own) and is used to describe actions ranging from shamanic magick (such as spirit journeys, magical healing by removing "spirit missiles" and hexes from the body, magickal psychiatric treatment in the form of recovering lost portions of the soul-complex, etc.), to prophecy, channeling the Gods or the Gods' voices through a human agent, enacting spells to affect weather or animals, as well as a wide range of offensive curses. The single most characteristic element of seiðr, however, seems to be magick of a type which works by affecting the mind by illusion, madness, forgetfulness or other means. The practitioner of seiðr was known as a seið-kona (seið-wife) or seið-maðr, (seið-man). 
However, these terms eventually were corrupted (inevitably by you know who) to mean a "black magician," so that frequently a female seið-worker is called a spá-kona or spae-wife instead to avoid blackening their name with the undeserved negative connotations of seiðr. This "politically correct" title usage for the seið-worker has resulted in much confusion over the types of native Scandinavian magick since the categories between seiðr and spá became blurred by later writers. Seiðr could give the worker knowledge of the future, but rather than directly perceiving ørlög or fate, as a spá-kona or völva would, the seið-practitioner summoned spirits to give them the knowledge of the future (which came with all the benefits or shortfalls of the spirits' own personal perspectives and biases). Other terms in common use for those practicing seiðr includefjölkunnigr-kona, "full-cunning-wife" and hamhleypa, "hamingja-leaper", one who defies the inherited "luck" of her bloodline by gaining "forbidden" knowledge of it from ancestor spirits.
Seiðr was a solitary art, where the seið-witch was not a member of a "coven", as in found in Wicca and similar new-age constructs, although a seið-practitioner might have attendants, apprentices or singers to assist her in the practice of her magick. In a very few rare instances the sagas do report a group of seið-workers practicing channeling the same entity together, but these are usually close blood kin, such as sisters, a father and his children, and the like.

Spá

The second type of magick was known as spá, or in a slightly archaic English or Scottish term, spaeSpá is often referred to as spá-craft, and its practitioners as spá-kona or spá-wife. S is intrinsically the art of determining ørlög, usually by intuition or personal gnosis. The 
"Ør"in Ørlög is literally "Ur", meaning ancient or primeval, and "lög" is law: thus ørlög is the law of how things will be for a particular person, and more generally, the Primal Law of nature, which determines the course of one's  wyrd or "flow of destiny", as woven from their past deeds by the three Norns. The Norns, Urðr ("That Which Is"), Verðandi ("That Which Is Becoming") and Skuld ("That Which Should Become") are the embodiment of wyrd. In fact, the Norns are the prototype for the highly exaggerated 'Weird Sisters' who are found in Shakespeare's Macbeth, and their seething kettle is both the bubbling Well of Wyrd and the seið-kona's cauldron. Many of the goddesses wield the art of spá: in Lokasenna we are told that Frigga knows all ørlögs, though she does not speak of them; and that Gefjion knows all ørlögs as well as Odin; and the Prose Edda says that Thor's wife Sif was likewise a spá-kona.
Another term for practitioners of spá is völva, usually translated as "prophetess" or "sybil". Völva comes from a root meaning "magickal staff," and throughout the Norse literature one sees female seers and mystics bearing a staff. The term völva dates back to the early Germanic tribes, where the term is found in the name or title of some tribal seeresses. The völva was an especially honored figure: Tacitus tells us of one such prophetess called Veleda, who prophesied the victory of her tribe over the Romans and saw that a general uprising against the legions would meet with success:
They believe that there resides in women an element of holiness and a gift of prophecy; and so they do not scorn to ask their advice, or lightly disregard their replies. In the reign of the emperor Vespasian we saw Veleda long honored by many Germans as a divinity; and even earlier they showed similar reverence for Aurinia and a number of others -- reverence untainted by servile flattery or any pretense of turning women into goddesses.
--Germania, ch. 8
The völva appears many times in Norse myth as well, for Óðinn routinely seeks knowledge of the future by using his powers over the dead to raise a deceased völva from her grave and question her.

Galdr

Galdr means literally "to sing" and refers to magickal songs that were sung with a range of notes. Galdr is usually associated with men's magickal incantations. Often it is associated with reciting runes or carving them as part of a power ritual or more rarely, a curse. When occasionally we see a Norse woman "chanting," the verb is usually "to speak," indicating a chant rather than a song.

Runic-magick

The magick of the runes, of which galdr is an extension, was largely the province of men, although it is likely that some women, at least, knew something of the runes. In its mythological context, in exchange for Frejya teaching him the art of seiðr, Odin taught her the secrets of the Runes. As Freyja's knowledge was believed to be passed down primarily through women in ancient times, it is not all that unusual that there were women rune-workers.  Certainly the sagas record instances of seið-witches sometimes cutting runes in wood (rather than resorting to the less direct art of seiðr itself) in order to work a spell:
"When they reached the shore, she hobbled on by the sea as if directed to a spot where lay a great stump of a tree as large as a man could bear on his shoulder. She looked at it and bade them turn it over before her; the other side looked as if it had been burned and smoothed. She had a small flat surface cut on its smooth side; then she took a knife, cut runes upon it, reddened them with her blood and muttered some spells over it. After that she walked backwards against the sun around it and spoke many potent words (Galdr). Then she made them push the tree into the sea, and said that it should go to Drangey and that Grettir should suffer hurt from it." 
--Grettis saga Ásmundarsonar, ch. 79


Seiðr as a metaphor for "Seething"

There are two theories as to the origin of the word seiðr . The first theory, proposed by the Brothers Grimm - great scholars of Germanic culture as well as preservers of its late medieval folklore -  suggests that seiðr is related to our modern word "seethe" and is derived from the rituals of boiling sea water to make salt. This implies that at least some forms of seiðr were done near a cauldron boiling aromatic herbs or seeds (not hallucinogenic ones) to clear the pores and sinuses, and allow a natural resonance for the Third Eye and simplify contact with non-physical entities. Failing this, the ritual could have at least been performed with the seiðkona or an attendant murmuring in tones mimicking the cauldron's bubbling sound or the fire's crackling. Such whispered boiling-sound incantations are actually quite common among traditionally female healing practices, if even subconsciously, in many far-flung Indo-European cultures. Modern scholars using this derivation have identified Macbeth's Weird Sisters as Nordic-derived figures, "seething" spells in their cauldron:
"Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble."
-- 
Macbeth IV Sc. 1
There are elements in the Scandinavian literature that support this derivation. The first is described in Völuspá (The völva's spá):


21.
Það man hún fólkvíg

fyrst í heimi,


er Gullveigu

geirum studdu


og í höll Hárs

hana brenndu,


þrisvar brenndu,

þrisvar borna,


oft, ósjaldan;

þó hún enn lifir.






22.
Heiði hana hétu hvar

er til húsa kom,


völu velspáa,

vitti hún ganda;


seið hún hvar er hún kunni,

seið hún hugleikin,


æ var hún angan

illrar brúðar.







(She remembers the war

first in the world


when they riddled

Gullveig with spears


and in the hall of Har

they burned her


thrice they burned her,

the thrice-born


often, time again

but yet she lives.







They called her Heið

in every house where she came


völva skilled in spá

she enchanted staves;


worked seiðr where she could,

with seiðr played with minds,


she was ever the joy

of evil women.)





Gullveig, the mysterious giantess seið-witch who was sent by the Vanir to the Æsir is often identified with Freyja, mistress of seiðr, though it's equally possible she was a different being entirely. The name literally means "gold-intoxication," and the theme of being thrice-burned yet living again is considered by some commentators to refer to an chemical or alchemical process. Gullveig is explicitly stated to be a seið-worker, and thus in her own person is associated with the concept of "seething" or cooking potions as well as with spell-craft.


"Seething" depicted in Groa's Incantation by W. G. Collingwood (1908)

Völuspá also introduces us to the name Heið or Heiðr (heath, i.e. forest), which is common throughout the Old Norse sagas as a name for a sorceress, and which is in turn related to the term Heiðinn or "heathen." It also closely rhymes with seiðr, which may be a cultural-linguistic pun hinting at the connection. Like the prophetesses mentioned in Germania such as Veleda, it is thought that Heiðr may have originally been a title for a specific type of magickal or religious practitioner, and only became used as a proper name after the introduction of Christianity had blurred the memory of the true state of affairs. Another common witch-name is Ljót (ugly), which reflects a Christian belief that witches are evil or harmful people, compounded with the belief that such people manifest their inward natures in their outward appearance. Huld or Hulda (hidden, secret) is also found as a common sorceress name. These names continued to be used for girls in Germanic cultures even long after Christianity had smeared and recast the seiðr-woman from a beloved and venerated heroine of the Folk, such as Veleda, to a foul, disfigured and cruel witch bent on evil.

In other places in the sagas, it is seen that an aspect of seiðr involves the brewing of poisons and potions, particularly those causing forgetfulness. In Sörla þattr, Freyja disguises herself as a woman named Göndul, and there uses a horn full of enchanted ale to cause forgetfulness in King Héðinn, so that he forgets his friendship with King Högni, resulting in a great slaughter that was Óðin's price for the return of Freyja's necklace, Brísingamen. (Sörla þattr, 133-134). Similarly, in Völsunga saga (ch. 28), Grímhild offers Sigurðr the drink of forgetfulness that causes him to forget Brynhildr, and Borghildr, Sigmundr's wife, urges her stepson Sinfjotli to drink poisoned ale from the festive horn (ch. 10). The seiðr of forgetfulness is typical of the art, which seems at its root to act on the mind of the victim.

Seiðr for deceiving Perceptions and the Mind

The use of seiðr to affect the mind, with forgetfulness, delusion, illusion, or fear, a sudden mental or even a physical fog is the hallmark of this type of magic. This is called sjónhverfing, the magickal delusion or "deceiving of the sight" where the seið-witch affects the minds of others so that they cannot see things as they truly are (Jochens, Old Norse Magic and Gender, 313). The role of seiðr in illusion magic is well-documented in the sagas, particularly being used to conceal a person from his pursuers. Part of this power may have been due to hypnosis, for the seið-witch could be deprived of her powers by being deprived of her sight, and the effect faded when the victim left the presence of the seið-practitioner.

The Eyrbyggja saga, which was likely compiled and evolved over several centuries, mentions this usage of seiðr for deception (chapter 20). Katla, one of the most renowned seiðr -women in all of Iceland's history, wished to rescue her son Oddur, who had gotten involved in some underhanded quarrels over a neighbor's property, and fled the murderous wrath of a band of armed men. As the men surrounded her house, Katla told Oddur to sit beside her motionless, while she sat working her spinning wheel. The men searched the house high and low, but saw nothing near Katla but her spinning wheel and weaver's distaff. After going off to look elsewhere, they returned again to find Katla outside on her porch; she was actually combing Oddur's hair, but her seiðr gave them the illusion that she was merely grooming her goat. They returned a third time and then Oddur was collapsed in a pile of ashes by the home's fire pit, and their eyes deceived them that Katla's boar was sleeping there. Each time they left the house, they realized that what they had just seen - the distaff, the goat, the boar - had not been present in the house, or at least in the same spot, the previous time they had paid her a visit, and they began to suspect that they had been duped. They also suspected that Katla was wise to their realizations, since she was resorting to a different sort of deception each time. Finally the men brought along Geirríðr, another skilled seiðr-woman whom Katla despised and described as a troll, to aid them in uncovering the deceptions and finding Oddur. When Katla saw Geirríðr through her window, she knew that sjónhverfing or "deceiving the sight" would not be an effective defense any longer. Geirríðr popped a seal-skin bag over Katla's head, covering her eyes and immediately disabling her magick. They found and hanged Oddur, and Katla was also accused of property damage to their lands and stoned to death.  

An essential portion of this technique seems to have involved wrapping an enchanted goatskin around the head of the victim (Reykdoela saga, ch. 14), or over the witch's own head (Njáls saga, ch. 12). A related magic was the magical technique called thehuliðshjálmr, the helmet of hiding or invisibility. The method for invoking the huliðshjálmrvaried, from placing hands atop the head of the person to be concealed, to throwing magical powders over them or other means. In another instance, the special hood worn by the seið-witch was used to render another person invisible while wearing it (Vatnsdoela saga, ch 44).

The evil eye - a primal pan-Indo-European concept - was also associated with seiðr, so that it was a well-known technique to thrust a skin bag or leather sack over a witch's head to prevent her from enchanting or cursing her captors. Occasionally one will find a description of a seið-practitioner bending over and looking through their legs, often while grasping their earlobes, in preparation for casting some spell, or to break a spell, to blunt swords, turn the land upside down, or to invoke a magical second sight:
What fiend is this coming towards us?" cried Högni. ‘ I can't make it out!' ‘It's old Ljót on her way,' Þórsteinn answered, ‘and what a tangle she's in!' She had cast her clothes up over her head and was walking backwards, and had thrust her head back between her legs; the look in her eyes was ugly as hell as she darted troll-like glances at them.
-- 
Vatnsdoela saga, ch. 26.
Seiðr might also be used to cause impotence in males or foil their attempts at sex with a particular rival woman: some commentators see Heiðr's action in "vitti hún ganda" as referring to enchanting a phallus, assuming that ganda, normally a "wand" (as in Tolkien's Gandalf, meaning "wand-elf") to be a phallic metaphor. The Anglo-Saxon "key" riddles, which use double-entendre to link the key which opens a lock to the phallus entering a female, indicate that the keys worn at the waist of the Germanic housewife were not only functional, but magical as well, symbolizing a wife holding the keys to her husband's legacy (i.e. the legitimacy of his children) and estate. A woman's keys would have also played a part in a seiðr spell relying upon sympathetic magic. Queen Gunnhildr of Norway, renowned in Norse literature as a seið-witch, was angered when her favorite Hrútr desired leave to return home to Iceland to the arms of another woman and used seiðr to punish him:
I want to give you this gold bracelet,' she said when they were alone, and clasped it around his arm. ‘You have given me many good gifts," said Hrútr. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him, and said, ‘If I have as much power over you as I think, the spell I now lay on you will prevent your ever enjoying the woman in Iceland on whom you have set your heart. With other women you may have your will, but never with her. And now you must suffer as well as I, since you did not trust me with the truth.'
Gunnhildr's spell, symbolized by the ring or bracelet given Hrútr, worked as intended, for he and Unn were never able to consummate their love, due to this cruel and vengeful practical joke. Though Hrútr could have sex comfortably with any other woman, he found that he could not physically enter Unn, mysteriously being far too oversized only when in her presence (Njáls saga, ch. 6 and 7). This spell probably operated via the sympathetic magic, transmitted by the bracelet.

Seiðr as formal Shamanism or Summoning

The second possible derivation of the word seiðr is from a root word meaning "seat" or "sitting," being related to French séance, Latin sedere, and Old English sittan (Gloseki, 97). This derivation seems somewhat more likely, since it is known that the practice of seiðr often took place seated on the seið-hjallr, the high seat or scaffolding to which the seið-prpractitioner climbed to practice her art. The best-known description occurs in Eiríks saga rauða  (the saga of Eirik the Red) in chapter 4:
"At that time there was a very bad season in Greenland: those who went hunting got little game, and some did not come back. There was a woman named Thórbjörg dwelling there; she was a spae-wife and was called Little-Völva. She had had nine sisters, and all were spae-wives, but she alone still lived. It was Thórbjörg's custom in winter to go to feasts, and most men who were curious to know their fates or harvest-expectations invited her home; and among those Thórkell was the greatest farmer, who wished to know what should come to him, how soon the bad harvest which oppressed him should end. 
Thórkell invited the spae-wife to his home, and she was well received there, as was the custom when someone should take this woman up on her habit. A high-seat was prepared for her and a cushion laid under her; that was stuffed with hen-feathers. She came in the evening with the man who had been sent to meet her, then she was dressed like this, so that she had a blue mantle fastened with straps, and stones were set all in the flap above; on her neck she had glass beads, a black lambskin hood on her head with white catskin inside; and she had a staff in her hand with a knob on it; it was made with brass and stones were set above in the knob; she had a belt of touch-wood, and on it was a large skin pouch, and there she kept safe her talismans (taufr) which she needed to get knowledge. She had on her feet shaggy calfskin shoes with long thongs and large knobs on the ends of those. She had on her hands catskin gloves, and they were white inside and shaggy. 
When she came in, everyone felt obliged to speak to her seemly words, to which she responded according to her opinion of each person. Farmer Thórkell took her by the hand and led her to that seat which was prepared for her. He asked her to cast her eyes over his herds and his home and people; she had little to say about anything. The tables were taken away in the evening, and it is to be said what was prepared for the spae-wife's meal. Porridge was made for her out of kids'-milk, and a dish prepared from the hearts of all living creatures which were available. She had a brass spoon and a knife made of walrus-ivory mounted with a double ring of copper, and the end was broken off. When the tables had been removed, Farmer Thórkell went over to Thórbjörg, and asked her how she liked his household and his people behavior there, and how soon she would know the answer to his question which everybody wanted to learn. She replied that she would not give any answer until the following morning, when she had slept there overnight first. 
The next day, at sunset, she made the preparations which she needed to have to carry out seiðr. She also asked for those women who knew the wisdom (chant) which was necessary for seiðr and was called Varðlokur or Warlock-Song. But those women could not be found. Then the folk dwelling there were asked if anyone knew it. Then Guðríðr said, 'I am neither magically skilled nor a wise-woman, but Halldís, my foster-mother, taught me that chant in Iceland which she called Varðlokur.' Thórbjörg said, ‘Then your knowledge is timely.' Guðríðr replied, ‘This is the sort of knowledge and proceeding that I want nothing to do with for I am a Christian woman." Thórbjörg said, ‘It may well be that you could be of help to others over this, and not be any worse a woman for that. But I shall leave it to Thórkell to provide whatever is required.' 
So Thórkell now brought pressure on Guðríðr, and she consented to do as he wished. The women made a ring around the seat, and Thórbjörg sat up on it. Then Guðríðr recited the chant so beautifully and so well, that it seemed to no one that they had heard the chant spoken with a fairer voice than was here. The spae-wife thanked her for the recital and said that many of the powers were now satisfied and thought it fair to hear when the chant was recited so well...'And now many of those things are shown to me which I was denied before, and many others'."
The procedure here, though geared at foretelling what will come to pass, is seiðr, not spá-craft: the prophetess is called völva since she does prophecy, but here she does not directly interact with the strands of wyrd or determine them by intuition or foresight from within herself. Rather, the spae-wife must have the assistance of spirits, summoned by special chants, with whom she converses from atop her scaffolding - hence it is clear the method used here is spirit-channeling or  seiðr, rather than the direct intuitive clairvoyance of spá. Used in this manner, seiðr bears many resemblances to the shamanic religions of the Saami and the various Finno-Ugric and Siberian peoples (who likely learned these rituals from the long-extinct east Aryan cultures of Andronovo, Karasuk, Tagar and Tashtyk whom they displaced). Today these mystics also use a birch trunk carved with nine steps, which they climb to enter their shamanic trance - clearly to manage the climb and not lose your nerve balancing upon such a high tree-trunk requires the intense focus and concentration demanded of a seiðr -worker, and the climb itself is a transformative shamanic experience recalling Odin's nine nights hanging upon the World Tree Yggdrasil. It is interesting to note in this regard that in Völuspá  verse 2, the völva also climbs a tree of nine steps, which is also strongly implied to be Yggdrasil:


2.
Eg man jötna

ár um borna,


þá er forðum mig

fædda höfðu.


Níu man eg heima,

níu í viði,


mjötvið mæran

fyr mold neðan.







(I call to mind

the kin of jotuns


which long ago

did give me life


Nine worlds I know

the nine steps


of the famous measure-tree

the ground beneath.)





The völva, like the shaman, wears a special costume made of animal skins and ornaments. It is perhaps significant that the hood and gloves are lined with the fur of the cat, sacred to Freyja, herself the goddess of seiðr-working. The cloak which the völva wears is blue, which is the color associated in Norse literature with death, Hel, and the realm of the dead. One persistent theme in the Eddas and sagas involves the acquisition of wisdom from the dead. Another element is the special cushion filled with hen's feathers upon which the spae-wife is seated: the feather cushion was probably intended to give the seið-worker the power to penetrate other worlds by flight, much like Freyja's falcon-feather cloak, or perhaps only betokened the high respect in which the prophetess was held.



Whereas a Saami, Siberian, or other Turanid shaman would rely upon the beat of a drum to achieve the ecstatic trance, the Indo-European völva requires a special type of chant, the Varðlokur. It is indeed a great loss for history that no words have been preserved of this chant, but since the Varðlokur had been used by Guðríðr's foster-mother as a lullaby, it seems likely that the chant was repetitive and soothing in character. Though it does not appear in Eirík's saga, there is some suggestion from other sources that the völva's staff may have been used to beat on the floor of the seiðhjallr rhythmically like a drum, for in Lokasenna Loki accuses Óðin:


þic síða kóðo Sámseyo í

ok draptu á vétt sem völor



(you practiced seiðr on Samsey,

and you beat on a vétt as völvas do)

---Lokasenna 24


Many students of the Lore, both "mainstream" and esoteric, have long noted the similarities between Saami religion and the old accounts of the practice of seiðr. Indeed, a significant portion of the accounts of seiðr in the Norse literature recount that the art is either learned from or practiced by Finnar or "Finnish wizards," which in Old Norse meant "Lappish" (Suomi or Saami) shaman. The powers attributed in the sagas to the "Finnish" sorcerer are the same as those of the seið-worker in many cases. The Finnar are said to change shape into a variety of animals, often sea-mammals or birds, in order to make spirit journeys to other lands to seek information (Vatnsdoela saga, ch. 29). Often the magical arts of the Finnar are said to include magical archery, including being unable to miss a target, being able to shoot three arrows simultaneously, magic arrows which fly back to the bowstring of their own accord and hit whatever they are aimed at. These stories all seem to be connected to the belief in elf-shot, common in European folklore, where the elves or other supernatural agency were said to shoot stone-tipped arrows to harm livestock or people: in Scandinavia, the term was finnskot or lappskot, based on a belief that Finnic peoples were using the malevolent elf-shot curses of Dokkalfar (Dark-Elves) which lasted long after the Viking Age, causing medieval Christians in Scandinavia to pray "For Nordenvind og Finskud bevar os milde Herre Gud" ("From the North Wind and the Finn-shot deliver us, gentle Lord God").




Origins of misconceptions about Seiðr 

According to Snorri Sturluson's account in Ynglingasagaseiðr was an art of the Vanir, originally brought among the gods and taught by Freyja, firstly to Odin:
Óðinn kunni þá íþrótt, er mestr máttr fylgði, ok framði siálfr, er seiðr heitr, en af þuí mátti hann bita ørlög manna ok óorðna hluti, suá ok at gera mönnum bana eða óhamingiu eða vanheilendi, suá ok at taka frá mönnum vit eða afl ok gefa öðrum. En þessi fiölkyngi, er framið er, fylgir suá mikil ergi, at eigi þótti karlmönnum skammlaust við at fara, ok var gyðiunum kend sú íþrótt.
Óðinn had the skill which gives great power and which he practiced himself. It is calledseiðr, and by means of it he could know the ørlög of men and predict events that had not yet come to pass; and by it he could also inflict bane on men, or loss of soul (hamingja) or waning health, or also take wit or power from some men, and give them to others. But this sorcery is attended by such ergi that manly men considered it shameful to practice it, and so it was taught to priestesses.
-- 
Ynglingasaga, ch 7
Snorri, a Christian writer in Iceland, made it clear that since Seiðr was women's magic, first and foremost, it should be considered shameful for men to handle, so much so that to learn the arts of seiðr caused a man to be regarded as argr (the adjective form of ergi): unmanly, effeminate, and cowardly, or the submissive partner in a homosexual relationship. But Snorri does not explain why. No one is certain why practicing seiðr should carry such a strong stench of un-manliness with it, outside of the more plausible explanation - that the very suggestion was subversive Christian propaganda from a few generations before Snorri, intended for consumption by curious young Heathens, those not yet fully versed in their Lore, to alienate them from their ancestral faith. Indeed, since Snorri was writing several centuries after the forced conversion of most of his people to Christianity, it is likely that even the oral lore of his time regarding the practices of his Heathen forefathers were permanently altered by this old Christian propaganda - a perverse case of "life imitating art" if there ever was one. It has been speculated by "mainstream" academics that seiðr was considered un-manly because it allowed a man to strike at enemies with magic or poison, or perhaps that the rituals attending seiðr included some sexual rites in which the seiðr-worker was the recipient of sexual attentions. From the Christian point of view, it appeared that the seiðr-practitioner was at times undergoing spirit possession or even possession by the gods, as happens in all shamanic traditions. By allowing one's self to be "ridden," and to allow another spirit or entity control over one's body, one totally gave up control and became passive, the antithesis of the expected ethic for masculinity. Of course, this is likely just the repressed imaginations of Christian authors running wild - unbiased evidence that Berserkers, smiths, "gray-wanderers" and other male seiðr-practitioners were ever seen this way by their families and Folk is almost non-existent. 

An alternative idea is that the very practice of seiðr itself was often an exercise in trance-like fury, consuming huge amounts of energy and leaving the practitioner physically and mentally drained for a time after the ritual ended, and thus potentially vulnerable to attack. As a result, seiðr-practitioners often needed attendants or guards. This is possibly why some Viking-age men night have seen it as un-manly,  but probably no more so than excessive drinking to the point of passing out (something that Odin cautions against in the Hávamál as being foolish, but does not condemn as "sinful"). Again, this does not rise to the level of aversion described by Snorri, nor was it relevant to the Berserker, whose form of seiðr was geared towards holding off the collapse in energy, or any pain, until either victory or death.

The reality is that precisely how the Norse of old defined masculinity, as well as how they defined the status of men practicing seiðr, may be very different from how the medieval Christians who subjugated them and wrote down their myths (let alone people of more recent times) would understand it. The Greeks and Persians, to use a better-known example, had very different notions of manliness and tended to mutually view the other as effeminate - the Greeks condemned Persians as such for their use of archery and their ethnic dress, of wearing pants and long sleeves - which to us today hardly seems unusual for a man at all  - while Persians viewed Greeks as unmanly for reasons that are more understandable to us today - the Greeks' love of nude wrestling, their tendency to bathe naked in olive oil before battle, and their acceptance of legalized pedophilia - which is to our modern senses equally repugnant as it was to the ancient Persians, despite mainstream academia teaching is that it was Greek culture that supposedly formed the "basis" for "Western" civilization (in reality this artificial divide of "Greco-Roman west" versus "Persian east" is highly deceptive; most of what we call "Western" civilization is Germanic rather than Grecian, and hence has values,  mythology, ancestral clothing, rituals, and customs far closer to the Gothic, Getaic, Scythian, and thus also Persian cultures - after all we know for a fact that Germanic warriors wore the same basic type of  "barbarian" scale mail, conical helmets, pants and and boots used by Persians and Scythians - not Greco-Roman cuirasses, feathered plumes, togas and sandals).  




Thus a certain element of "we don't know" must be applied to the heathen Norse here, as their side of the story has been largely muffled and co-opted, and may have been quite different from the story told by the medieval Crusader-monk.

In addition to the use of the seiðhjallr to perform seiðr, some magical techniques were accomplished by the practitioner withdrawing to a secluded location and covering himself or herself with a cloak, in the solitude of which he or she meditated and spoke spells while the body of the practitioner lay in a "corpse pose" as though dead. During this procedure it was important that no one speak to the practitioner, most especially no one should say the practitioner's name, else it would interrupt the working, possibly with dangerous consequences. This technique of working "under the cloak" was more often practiced by men than by women, and seems to be a part of the art of the thulr and of the skald, of use in seeking out hidden truths, foretelling the future, creating sendings to attack others or to seek out information afar for the practitioner, and sometimes to cast spells which cause physical events in the real world such as landslides. The most effective location for this "under the cloak" technique was atop a barrow or grave, presumably in order for the practitioner to receive wisdom from the dead, a practice known as utiseta, "sitting out," or sitja á haugi "sit on a barrow". There was always danger in utiseta, one might be attacked by the haugbui or corpse-wight who dwelt in the barrow (a concept extensively borrowed by Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings), and perhaps be left dead or completely insane by the next morning. 

Another aspect of seiðr was the ability to either shape-shift or to project one's spirit into an animal, often a sea-mammal such as a walrus, whale, or seal, of if a land animal then it is often one of the animals associated with Freyja, such as a cat, boar, or falcon. This is termed gand-reið, "riding the gand." The term gand itself means "chant, incantation, enchantment," no doubt the means used to power the reið. The riding of broomsticks, distaffs, or wolves is also included in the art of gand-reið (Cleasby-Vigfusson, s.v. gandr) . InKormáks saga (ch. 18), the seið-witch Þórveig's gand-reið appeared as a walrus:
The two brothers had but left the roadstead, when close beside their ship, up rose a walrus. Kormák hurled at it a pole-staff, which struck the beast, so that it sank again: but the men aboard thought that they knew its eyes for the eyes of Þórveig the witch. That walrus came up no more, but of Þórveig it was heard that she lay sick to death; and indeed folk say that this was the end of her.
This is apparently a spirit-sending, for Þórveig's body stayed on shore, and she took harm when injury was done to the sending at sea. This shape-shifting is seen to be intrinsically connected to seið-work in Friðþjófs saga (ch. 5-8), where the seið-witches practice their shape-shifting sending from atop the seiðhjallr:
Then they sent two women skilled in magic, Heiðr and Hamglama, and paid them to send such a storm upon Friðþjóf and his men that they might all be lost at sea. So they practiced their magic; they fared to the seiðhjallr with charms and sorcery. . . . Then Friðþjóf and his men found that the ship made great speed, but they knew not whither they had come, for that so great a darkness fell on them that the stem was not seen from the center, what with driving spray and storm, frost and snowdrift and bitter cold. Then Friðþjóf climbed up in the mast; and when he was mounted up he said to his fellows, ‘I see a marvelous sight. A great whale circles the ship, and I suspect that we must be near some land, and he would not let us near the land. Methinks that King Helgi does not deal with us in friendly wise: it is no loving message that he sends us. I see two women on the whale's back, and they must wield this hostile storm with their worst spells and magic.

Friðþjóf and his crew managed to smite the women, and they disappeared, the whale submerged, and the storm dissipated. But back ashore it was seen that "while the two sisters were at their incantations they tumbled down from the 
seiðhjallr, and both their backs were broken."
The concept of "faring forth" in animal form exactly parallels Saami and Siberian shamanistic practices. Gand-reið could also include dream-faring and hag-riding or nightmare attacks, also well known shamanistic magical occurrences. A spirit known as the mara could often be controlled by a seiðkona to attack her target - it may be formless, it could appear as a Hag (a wise though stern matron, not an "ugly witch"), a shadow, a horse, a cat or other animal. The attack of the nightmare or mara is reported in all cultures world-wide, and seems to be related both to children's night-terrors and a condition in adults of being in a state between waking and dreaming. To the Viking culture, however, the mara was an assault by a powerful and ill-intentioned seið-worker, such as is seen in the account of the death of Vanlandi:
Then Drífa sent for Huld, a seið-kona, and sent Vísbur, her son by Vanlandi, to Sweden. Drífa prevailed upon Huld by gifts that she should conjure Vanlandi back to Finland or else kill him. At the time when she exercised her seiðr, Vanlandi was at Uppsala. Then he became eager to go to Finland; but his friends and counselors prevented him from doing so, saying that most likely it was the witchcraft of the Finns which caused his longing. Then a drowsiness came over him and he lay down to sleep. But he had hardly gone to sleep when he called out, saying that a mara rode him. His men went to him and wanted to help him. But when they took hold of his head themara trod on his legs so they nearly broke; and when they seized his feet it pressed down on his head so that he died.
-- 
Ynglingasaga, ch. 13
It is said in many places in the sagas that various seið-practitioners had learned their crafts from Saami wizards or shaman. It is not surprising, therefore, that like the Finnish or Saami, the seið-witch often knows spells to unleash the winds, tame tempests, send snow upon their foes and lash the ocean to fury - things rather similar (in general description at least) to Odin's skills with the Runes. One instance in Friðþjófs saga has already been discussed above. Like the episode in Friðþjófs saga, weather-working in the sagas seems to be a type of magic usually practiced from atop the seiðhjallr, although instances are recorded where other magical techniques are used. Certainly the seiðhjallr appears in Laxdoela saga when Kotkel and his family use the platform to call a tempest against Thórðr (ch. 35). Storms are not the only forces of nature the seið-witch could summon: many sagas recount episodes where landslides are caused by a seið-kona circling a location thrice and then chanting a curse.

Seiðr  and the Household Crafts

Spinning is intrinsically connected with fate and with magic in the Old Norse literature. The goddesses of spinning inspected the spindles and distaffs of women of the household at Midwinter, rewarding the families of hard workers with good luck, and lazy spinners with disaster for next year. Thus spinning yarn directly influenced the luck of the family, and its mastery was a symbol of pride for women. The  clearest connection of magick with spinning string is in the Eddas' descriptions of the Norns, who, of course, are said to spin each human's wyrd. In Helgakviða Hundingsbana I, the Norns spun Helgi's fate:


3.
His fate-thread span they

to o'erspread the world


(for Borghild's bairn)

in Brálund castle


they gathered together

the golden threads,


and in moon-hall's middle

they made them fast.

The belief that the fate of a child could be made, or altered, or irreparably harmed by this spinning has persisted, embodied in children's tales, such as the Märchen of Sleeping Beauty and other Grimm tales. This belief led to rituals performed by Swedish women, who in the seventh month of pregnancy drew blood from their finger with a sewing needle, and used it to mark a strip of wood with protective symbols (runes?). Then she spun three lengths of linen thread, which were dyed red, black, and one left white. The wooden strip was burned, and its ashes mixed with mead or beer. A burning twig from the fire was used to burn apart seven inch lengths from each of the linen threads, which were then boiled in salted water and left to dry in the forest on the limb of a tree for three days. These were then wrapped in clean linen and saved until the day of birth. The white cord was used to tie off the umbilical cord of the newborn. The red was tied around the baby's wrist as a protective amulet, sometimes strung with a bead to repel the evil eye. And the black , symbolic of death and ill-luck, was burned to ash and the ashes buried. Often the afterbirth was buried beneath the tree on which the linen threads had dried.


Spinning yarn and cloth was considered a magickal art by women,
associated not just with Freyja but also with the chief Goddess Frigg, wife of Odin.
(Frigga Spinning the Clouds by John Charles Dollman, 1909)
Not only could spells be spun, but magick itself could be woven into cloth. The best examples of this type of seiðr comes from Orkneyinga saga, where Helga and her sister Frakkok weave a shirt of fine white linen, embroidered with golden thread, and impregnated either with death-magick, intended for the Earl's brother, Paul. Helga's son, Earl Harald of Orkney, found the shirt and wanted to have it for his own, but:
...the sisters pulled off their bonnets, tore their hair and said that if he put on the garment his life would be at risk. Though they were both in tears he didn't let that stop him, but no sooner was the garment upon his back than his flesh started to quiver and he began to suffer terrible agony. He had to go to bed and not long after that he died.
--
Orkneyinga saga, ch. 55
Weaving magic could be used to help as well as harm. Often in riddles mail shirts are likened to magically woven protecting shirts. These shirts were called gørningstakkr or witch's shirts, and examples can be found in Eyrbyggja saga when Katla weaves a wound-proof shirt for her son Odd (ch. 18), in Vatnsdoela saga, where Ljót weaves one for her son Hrolleifr (ch. 19), as well as many other places in Norse literature. The motif is also well known in Finnish runos, where a mother weaves a magical shirt that is proof against the feared and deadly metal iron.

A famous type of weaving that was used for protection was the Raven Banner: these banners were recorded to have been carried by Danes attacking Belgium and northern France in the 9th and 10th centuries, as well as to Vikings under Sigifrid in the British Isles in 878, and in the Icelandic manuscripts of the 12th and 13th century the Raven Banner is found connected with Sigurðr Hlöðvisson Dyri (the Stout), Earl of Orkney, or with King Harald of Norway. In all these accounts, the magical banner has the power to terrify foemen; the ground of the banner which at rest was seen to be a shimmering white turned black in battle, or else the figure of a huge black raven in flight appeared on the white fabric, which was seen to magically flap its wings. The magical banner is always woven by the mother or sister of the warrior in question, with the magic woven into the fabric as it was made to protect the son or brother. Victory was always assured to the man whom the banner was carried before, but the banner bearer was often doomed to fall in battle (Orkneyinga saga, ch. 6, 11, 14, 17;Njáls saga, ch. 157).

Christian commentators fulminated against this type of women's magic. Eligius of Noyon preached that a woman should not "name other unfortunate persons either at the loom, or in dyeing, or in any kind of work with textiles," (probably referring to weaving their name into the cloth in runes or bind-runes by means of Nalbinding) while the Corrector of Burchard of Worms, ca. 1010, sets the following penance for magical weaving:
"Have you been present at or consented to the vanities which women practice in their wool-work, in their weaving, who when they begin their weaving hope to be able to bring it (misfortune) about... ...that the threads of the warp and the woof become so intertwined that unless someone makes use of these other diabolical counter-incantations, he will perish totally? If you have been witness or consented to this, you must do penance for thirty days on bread and water."
The colors red and blue were considered to be especially magical, and cloth of these colors was prized for straining medicinal infusions. The Dutch word toverij, the German word Zauber, and the Old English term teafor all mean "magic" and are related to the Norse word taufr, used for an amulet: all these terms are derived from a Germanic root meaning "red", though all also relate to Tiwar or Teiwaz, i.e. Tyr, the God of Battle - whose sword, for his warrior devotees, was always stained red. Red thread was used in medical applications, being used to bind off the umbilicus of the newborn, or to tie packets of herbs to an afflicted body part to encourage magical healing.



Medicine-magick and Healing among Seiðr -women

In pagan societies, magic can be applied not only to medical techniques which heal the body, but are often the primary course of treatment for mental illness. Healing was an important part of the duties of  the seið-kona. Thuríðr in spaka (the Wise), also known as spá-kona, healed two men who had wounder each other in hólmganga . Amulets and curing stones were known in Iceland, being a part of the practice of the healer, usually a woman. Grágás states:
"People are not to do things with stones or fill them with magic power with the idea of tying them on people or on livestock. If people put trust in stones to ensure their own health or that of cattle, the penalty is lesser outlawry" (Christian Law, §7).
Indeed, the Christian colonizers had outlawed all forms of magick, including such "sorcerer's stones" (yet another ancient magickal device used as plot armor by modern storytellers). Germanic folklore also contains mention of "stones of life," curing stones, stones to dull the pain of childbirth, stones for  bleeding, stones for invisibility, and eventually in the medieval period, stones that simply attract good luck.

The laying-on of hands was known to seið-women in Scandinavia as a magical technique. Usually this form of diagnosis was performed by mothers, who would touch their sons all over before a battle while in a seið-trance, and would thus find out every spot where they would be wounded, and then apply palliatives or position extra armor plates in the correct places in advance. Other magical healing techniques were used, but accounts of these are rare in the sagas. Other healers include Gríma the Greenlander fromFóstbræðra saga and Heiðr (yet another obscure woman by this titular name) from Biarmiland in Haralds saga hárfagra. This "healing touch" is also mentioned in Sigrdrífumál:


8.
Learn ale runes eke,

lest other man's wife
betray thee who trusted in her:


on they beer horn scratch it,

and the back of they hand,
and the Nauð rune on thy nails.


9.
Thy beaker bless

to banish fear
and cast a leek in thy cup:


then know I that never

thou needest fear
that bale in thy beer there be.


10.
Learn help runes eke,

if help thou wilt
a woman to bring forth her babe:


on they palms wear them

and grasp her wrists,
and ask the dísir's aid.


12.
Limb runes lean thou,

if a leech would'st be,
and wishest wounds to heal:


on the bark scratch them

of bole in the woods
whose boughs bend to the east.


21.
These beech runes be,

and birth runes, too,
and all ale runes,
and mighty, magic runes


for whoe'er unspoilt,

and unspilt, eke,
for his help will have them:
gain he who grasps them,
till draws near the doom of the gods!

  


References:

Eiríks saga rauða. trans. Magnus Magnusson and Herman Pálsson. In: The Vinland Sagas: the Norse Discovery of America. Harmondsworth: Penguin. 1965. ISBN 0-14-044-154-9.
Eyrbyggja saga. trans. Herman Pálsson and Paul Edwards. In: Eyrbyggja Saga. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1973. 
Friðþjófs saga hins Frækna. trans. Margaret Schlauch. In: Medieval Narratives. New York: Prentice-Hall. 1928. Reprint, 1934. 
Germania. by P. Cornelius Tacitus. trans. H. Mattingly. In: Tacitus: the Agricola and the Germania. Harmondsworth: Penguin. 1970. 
Grágás. trans. Andrew Dennis, Peter Foote and Richard Perkins. In: Laws of Early Iceland: Grágás I. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press. 1980. 
Grágás. trans. Andrew Dennis, Peter Foote and Richard Perkins. In: Laws of Early Iceland: Grágás II the Codex Regius of Grágás With Material from Other Manuscripts . Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press. December 1999. 
Decretorum libri viginti by Burchard of Worms (c. 1008-12) In: Shiners. John (ed.) Medieval Popular Religion, 1000-1500: A reader. 2nd edition. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 459-470. 2009.
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Heimskringla. by Snorri Sturluson. trans. Lee M. Hollander. In: Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway. Austin: University of Texas Press. 1964.
Kormáks saga. trans. William G. Collingwood and Jón Stefánsson. In: The Life and Death of Cormac the Skald. Ulverston: Holmes. 1902.
Njáls saga. trans. Magnus Magnusson and Herman Pálsson. In: Njáls Saga. Harmondsworth: Penguin. 1960.
Orkneyinga saga. trans. Herman Pálsson and Paul Edwards. In: Orkneyinga Saga. Harmondsworth: Penguin. 1978.
Poetic Edda. trans. Lee M. Hollander. In: The Poetic Edda. Austin: University of Texas Press. 1962. 
Sörla þattr. trans. William Morris. In: Collected Works of William Morris X: Three Northern Love Stories. New York: Longmans Green & Co. 1911. reprint Thoemmes Press. 1996. 
Vatnsdoela saga. trans. Gwyn Jones. In: The Vatnsdaler's Saga. New York: Princeton University Press. 1944. 
Völsunga saga. trans. R.G. Finch. In: The Saga of the Volsungs. London: Nelson. 1965.
Völsunga saga. Jesse L. Byock, ed. In: The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer. Berkeley: Univ of California Press. 1990. 

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