Shamanism In Seidr And The Völvur

The other day I wrote about Shamanism in the Northern Traditional Paganism and I left you all with the glimpse of the idea that women were the only ones to work with magic, rune Reading, shamanism etc. in the old Norse comunities, and in this post I will go further on that and explain why women were so importante in these fields of expertise.

We know of many Norse deities that are connected with the runes and magic, with shaman practices who are both male and female, the Aesir, Vanir, Jotnar, Alfar, Duergar and such others from the Norse cosmology work with such magics and are linked to them, but the powers of Seiðr are in fact an exclusive spiritual path that belong to the Vanir tribe of gods, and from them, all others gained the knowledge to work with such powers, as such, the Vanir gods aren’t just connected with Nature, Agriculture, Fertility and Love, they are also connected to Magic, to shamanism, to Seiðr. Afther many gained this knowledge, including Odin, taught by the Vanir deities, it was also passed down to us mortals, and such works were only practiced by women in the Norse communities, this doesn’t mean that men couldn’t do it, but to the eyes of the Norse society of that time, it wasn’t seen as the right thing for a man to do, nor was it dignify. So women were the workers and practitioners of  Seiðr, and were so called Vǫlva ( or Völva in Icelandic ), plural vǫlur in Old Norse and völvur in Icelandic.
Freyja is the divine archetype of the völva, a professional practitioner of the Norse/Germanic magical tradition known as Seiðr. This was a form of magic concerned with discerning and altering the course of destiny by re-weaving one part of the destiny’s web. To do such things, one would enter in trance, such as a shaman does, and go throughout the Nine worlds in the spirit form and accomplishing her intended tasks.
Freyja as a female deity closely linked to sexuality, fertility, love, magic, household, sensuality, is the perfect patroness of women in the old Norse community and the one closely connected with women that did spiritual work.

During these ages, the völva wandered from town to town and farm to farm prophesying and performing other acts of magic in exchange for room, board, and often other forms of compensation as well. it was their job and all jobs must receive any kind of payment according to the importance of the job. The most detailed account that we might have access to of such a woman and her doings comes from The Saga of Erik the Red,  but numerous sagas as well as some of the mythic poems (most notably the Völuspá, “The Insight of the Völva“) contain sparse accounts of seidr-workers and their practices.
As we know well that any other northern Eurasian shamans was set apart from their communities, the völva was no exception to the rule, these women were set apart from their society as well in both a positive and a negative sense, a Völva was simultaneously exalted, sought-after, feared, and, in some instances, reviled. However, the Völva is very reminiscent of the veleda, a seeress or prophetess who held a more clearly-defined and highly respected position amongst the Norse/Germanic tribes for many centuries both after and before the common era. The women practitioners of these arts held a more or less dignified role among their people.
Speaking of a dignified role among society, such wasn’t usually the case for male practitioners of these arts, of Seiðr. According to traditional Norse/Germanic gender constructs, it was extremely shameful and dishonorable for a man to adopt a female social or sexual role. A man who practiced Seiðr could expect to be labeled ergi (Old Norse for “unmanly”) one of the gravest insults that could be hurled at a Norse/Germanic man in those times.  Still, this didn’t stop numerous men from engaging in seidr, sometimes even as a profession. the female position in society and their professions was very important in the role politics and economy, while men took care of the defence of a community, or other warfare acts, hard work in the fields in agriculture, fishing and so on, women were left behind most of the time to do all the hard work in the farms as well, while men were gone at war or died, and also taking care of the house, the great halls, the children, and anything that might have been done in a community of those times. Think of it as time of the Great World War II, most men were dead or crippled, and society was forced to take the women in and scattered them in many fields of expertise, in order to save the economy and keep the countries running, but in Norse/Germanic societies, this was completly normal and accepted with no problem.

Note: The artwork to illustrate this post is a drawing made by me of two women practitioners of Seiðr. If you have any questions for me or if you want to see my artistic works, check out my Facebook page and make a Like if you can by following this link –>

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