Icelandic Spirit Magic?

One of my Christmas gifts was the collection The Sagas of Icelanders, which I’ve been dipping into as time permits.  In “Eirik the Red’s Saga,” I came across a mention of Thorbjorg, a woman who could contact the spirits.  A few select passages:

Late the following day she was provided with things she required to carry out her magic rites.  She asked for women who knew the chants required for carrying out magic rites, which are called ward songs…

The women formed a warding ring around the platform raised for sorcery, with Thorbjorg perched atop it.  Gudrid spoke the chant so well and so beautifully that people there said they had never heard anyone recite in a fairer voice.

The seeress thanked her for her chant.  She said many spirits had been attracted who thought the chant fair to hear…

The procedure, as described, has many elements that intrigue me – the central role of women in the procedure, the use of both a seer and a summoner in the ritual, the explicit use of song to call the spirits (an element not found in more recent rituals), the warding circle on a platform to keep out the spirits attracted, and, more importantly, the fact that I’ve never heard anything about this before.

Few notes are given here, though the term varolokkur seems to be key.  Any tips readers can provide on sources would be much appreciated.

Published in: on January 17, 2010 at 2:52 pm  Comments (4)  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Looks like seidhr is the term you want to be checking out?

  2. Perhaps look at Nine World of Seid-Magic by Jenny Blain (Routledge, 2001)?

    Seid and spae are complex areas of ancient and modern heathenry, and decent material in English is scarce.

  3. Hi Dan. Maybe you try the following (Though I have not read it:
    The vardlokkur of Gudridur Thorbjarnardottir” by Jon Hnefill Adalsteinsson, pp. 97-110; from:
    Seamas Ocathain (Eds.): Northern Lights – following folklore in North-Western Europe : essays in honour of Bo Almqvist(Univ. Coll. Dublin Press, 2001)


    It is possible, that the term “warlock” derives from “vardlokkur”.

    You can find another essay from that book here:,Magicians_and_Murderous_Children.pdf



  4. It is most commonly, among both scholars and heathens, to be considerded a depiction of Seidhr.

    There are few good books on Seidhr, I only partially recommend Jenny Blain’s book, as much of it is concerned with modern ‘manifestations’ of Seidhr such as Diana Paxson’s ‘oracular seidhr’ which actually was reconstructed using Umbanda techniques.

    Neil Price has an essay available entitled The Archaeology of Seidhr which can be found here

    which is an excellent study (which in useful in conjunction with his book The Archeaology of Shamanism).

    Also, “A Source-Book of Seid” translated and compiled by Jim Chisholm and Stephen Flowers is essential. Despite being compiled by the Yrmin Drighten and a Master in the Rune-Gild, there is no esoteric analysis. All that they have done is compile every academic reference to Seidhr into one text with the original text and their translation so that individuals can have all of the primary sources at their fingertips.

    It can be found at the Runa-Raven website.

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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