Monday, March 21, 2011

Magical Monday: Types of Classical Magic—Norse Seidr

For the next few weeks on my Magical Monday feature, I’m going to explore various kinds of witchcraft that have existed through various ages and cultures.

I’ll begin with types of classical witchcraft, also called “low” magic, where practitioners or adepts perform spells, make potions, utilize divination, and employ types of healing like herbalism. I find these particularly interesting because they are integral with culture. The more familiar of these include: shamanism; feng-shui; voodoo; native American appeals to the Great Spirit. In coming weeks, I’ll examine those and many others.

Today, my focus is on the practice of Seidr, an old Norse type of classical witchcraft. This tradition stems from Norse, Icelandic, Germanic, Teutonic, Latvian, Estonian, and Lithuanian cultures. Iceland places equal importance on this form of paganism and Christianity. Their literature often recounts pagan myths in sagas and poetic eddas. 

My first introduction to this type of paganism was during my first quarter of freshman year in college, when my favorite English professor asked us to read Njal's Saga, a terrific Norse work. I can still see him acting out sword fighting scenes, playing both characters in the duel. I was captivated by the fantasy and his teaching, going on to take five more of his courses. An amazing man who taught me how to write and how to love it. What a huge fingerprint he left on my mind, for which I will always be grateful.

The pagan practice of Seidr values the warrior more than gods and goddesses. Study of this witchcraft includes learning runes, artistic skills, martial arts, and potion brewing. Common usage of Seidr magic is to promote honesty, honor, courage, and dedication to family.

I was lucky enough to find a video example of the music and visual arts/practices of Seidr. Typically, a chorus sings a song like this, inducing the prophetess into a trance or vala. 


Text reference: The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference, 1998.
Video: Rasputin712
Music: Hagalaz runedance
Art: Marc Potts

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17 comments:

L. K. Below said...

What fascinating stuff, Marsha. I love it! Thanks for teaching me something new :)

Marsha A. Moore said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Lindsay! I'm always drawn to the combination of myth and magic.

Diana said...

I'm just getting into the Northern Traditions. Good post!

Maeve said...

Fascinating post, Marsha. I've always enjoyed learning more about the myriad of magical traditions. I'm looking forward to the rest of this series.

Karen Michelle Nutt said...

Interesting post. I enjoy tidbits of history and traditions.

Thanks for sharing.

Marsha A. Moore said...

@Diana--The Norse literature overflows with this magic since paganism is revered.

@Maeve--Me too! Learning about how culture and magical traditions interweave fascinates me.

@Karen--These tidbits often make interesting details and textures for writing.

Gerri Bowen said...

Very interesting, Marsha. I loved the music.

Marsha A. Moore said...

I especially liked the music, so much so I ordered the CD to use as writing inspiration background music. Glad you enjoyed it, Gerri!

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Marsha, thanks so much for the magical info. This goes to my heritage, too.

Marsha A. Moore said...

Very cool that it ties to your heritage! Thanks for stopping in, Savanna.

Marsha A. Moore said...

Very cool that it ties to your heritage! Thanks for stopping in, Savanna.

Marva Dasef said...

I delve into rune magic in my YA Witches of Galdorheim series (Bad Spelling, MuseItUp, 10/2011), but tread lightly since it is a kids book.

I used a couple of rune spells, but I hope nobody can pronounce them and end up floating above the earth or calling up the dead!

Wonderful write-up!

Marsha A. Moore said...

Marva, if kids do discover your spells do those things, think of all the book sales you'll get!!!

Lynne said...

That was very interesting. The music sounded very Native American and there were images that seemed the same including one which appeared almost to represent a Kachina of the South West. I shall investigate it further. Thanks.Lynne

Marsha A. Moore said...

I agree, Lynne. The drumming rhythm sounds Native American, but the vocals seem less stark and more hypnotic than Indian cries.

Rochelle Weber--Author, Editor said...

I, too felt the Native American elements and wondered whether some of their traditions didn't come from the Vikings. With my mother's maiden name being Peterson and her mother's maiden name being Johnsrud and after that we have to go back to Norway, we're also delving into my family roots. Thanks, Marsha. (And now you all know where I got the last names for Rock Bound.)

Marsha A. Moore said...

Rochelle, that's interesting how you've tied your family roots into your book Rock Bound. As most people know, the last part of my author name is a pen name, being my mother's Irish maiden name Moore. I believe maintaining connections to ground us in family and tradition is important.