Old Norse Spells And Enchantments

Old Norse Spells

In the age of the Vikings, Old Norse spells and enchantments held immense significance in everyday life. Their culture was deeply intertwined with a profound respect and fear of the supernatural world, rendering their practices, spells, and charms intriguing and mystical to modern seekers. This article delves into the fascinating world of Old Norse spells, encompassing aspects like Norse rune spells, Norse pagan spells, Norse weather spells, and old Norse charms, spoken spells, and rhymes. Stay tuned! 

Understanding the Norse Mystical Framework

The basis of the Norse magical practice, also known as “Seiðr,” was established in their cosmology and mythology. They believed in a multi-layered universe, with the world of humans (Midgard) nestled between the divine (Asgard) and the underworld (Hel). Their rituals, spells, and enchantments aimed to manage the harmonious coexistence among these realms.

What Is Sorcery in Old Norse?

In Old Norse culture, sorcery, often referred to as “Seiðr,” was a significant aspect of the societal and spiritual landscape. The term “Seiðr” itself has been interpreted to mean “cord, string, or snare,” suggesting an essence of binding or weaving magic, of altering the threads of fate.

Seiðr encompassed a broad range of magical practices, including divination, healing, transformation, and manipulation of the natural and supernatural worlds. It was associated with benevolent and harmful magic, employed for the good of the community or to harm one’s foes.

Practitioners of Seiðr, known as völvas (seeresses) if female, or seiðmenn if male, held high societal roles, although with divergent perspectives. Women practitioners were widely accepted and respected, even revered for their abilities. In contrast, male practitioners often faced stigma, as Seiðr was culturally associated with femininity and was thus viewed with suspicion and contempt when practiced by men.

A notable feature of Old Norse sorcery was its deep connection to the spiritual world and Norse mythology. Practitioners invoked and interacted with various deities, spirits, and beings from the Norse pantheon, including Odin, the god known for his mastery of Seiðr.

Runes, the ancient Norse alphabet, played a significant role in Seiðr. Each rune had a magical significance, and their combinations could create powerful spells or charms. However, it was not a practice taken lightly; it required deep knowledge and reverence for the forces being dealt with.

In summary, sorcery in Old Norse, or Seiðr, was an intricate and multifaceted practice, blending divination, healing, transformation, and manipulation magic. Despite its complexities and the ambivalent societal attitudes towards it, Seiðr holds an important place in the spiritual and cultural tapestry of the Old Norse people.

What Is the Old Norse Word for Spell?

The Old Norse language is known for its numerous terms to describe magic and related practices, illustrating the significant role such beliefs played in their society. Yet, the term used to denote a ‘spell’ in Old Norse is often a point of discussion.

A frequently used term is “seiðr,” which, as mentioned earlier, describes a form of sorcery or magical practice. Nevertheless, seiðr is a general term for magical or shamanistic practices rather than a specific word for ‘spell.’

The Old Norse word that comes closest to our modern understanding of a ‘spell’ might be “galdr.” Galdr refers to the chants or magical songs used in spellcasting, often in association with runes. Each galdr was specifically designed to invoke certain powers or outcomes.

Another term, “trollskap,” is often translated as ‘magic’ or ‘sorcery,’ but it has a broader context, referring to any magical act rather than just a spell.

Old Norse does not have a direct equivalent for the English word ‘spell.’ Instead, it offers a rich vocabulary that speaks to various aspects of magical practices, each with unique connotations and nuances. 

Norse Rune Spells: Engraved Mysteries

A key component of Norse magic and sorcery involved the use of runes, the ancient alphabetic symbols. Each rune was more than just a letter; it was a symbol imbued with cosmological significance and power.

Casting rune spells often involved carving these signs into objects like amulets, staves, or stones. The runes weren’t merely written but rather ritually inscribed, with the intention of the spell serving as the crucial element.

The Ansuz rune, associated with the Norse god Odin, was used in spells seeking wisdom or communication. The Algiz rune, connected to the Elk and higher protection, was used in spells to safeguard individuals or spaces. Despite the vast number of runes, their combinations, and the spells they could create, it’s crucial to understand that their use was not arbitrary. It required extensive knowledge of the runes, their associations, and the way to manipulate them effectively.

Norse Pagan Spells: Invoking the Gods

Norse Pagan spells primarily sought the assistance of the Norse gods, goddesses, and other spiritual beings. The Norse pantheon was vast, and specific deities were invoked depending on the nature of the spell. For instance, Freyr was invoked for spells related to fertility and prosperity, while Thor was summoned for strength and protection.

The spells were often conducted during rituals, or ‘blóts,’ where offerings were made to appease the deities. These could involve spoken incantations or written scripts, most commonly using the rune system.

Norse Weather Spells: Taming the Forces of Nature

The harsh and unpredictable Nordic weather made it a formidable adversary, prompting the Norse people to develop spells to control these forces. Norse weather spells were integral to their survival and significant to their seafaring culture.

One of the most famous Norse weather spells was the invocation of the god Ægir, the ruler of the sea. To ensure a safe journey, the Vikings would perform elaborate rituals and spells to appease him. On the other hand, to conjure storms or unfavorable conditions (usually to hinder enemies), they would invoke Ægir’s wife, Rán.

Another critical weather spell involved the rune symbol ‘Isa,’ representing ice. It was used to summon freezing conditions or to halt something in its tracks, metaphorically freezing the situation.

Old Norse Charms, Spoken Spells, and Rhymes: The Art of Galdr and Grógaldr

In addition to runes, the Norse used spoken spells, known as Galdr, and sung charms called Grógaldr. The power of these practices lay in the belief that every word spoken (or sung) held the magic to alter reality.

Galdr involved chants or incantations and often corresponded with runes to maximize their power. These spoken spells were used in various situations, including healing, protection, or even changing someone’s mind.

Grógaldr, on the other hand, was a more melodic form of spell casting. It was usually performed by women known as völvas, who were the primary practitioners of Seiðr. Grógaldr involved singing the spells, which were often complex and encoded with several layers of symbolism.

How to Practice Galdr? 

Galdr is the ancient Norse practice of spell-casting using incantations or chants, often in combination with runes. While the precise rituals associated with galdr have been lost to time, there are ways you can approach this practice based on historical sources and the broader context of Norse magical traditions.

  • Understanding Runes: At the core of Galdr lies the rune system. Each rune of the Elder Futhark has a name, a phonetic value, and a range of symbolic meanings. A deep understanding of these runes and their associations is fundamental to practicing galdr.
  • The Chant: Galdr is often performed as a chant or song. This can be as simple as repeatedly singing the name of a rune to complex, rhythmic incantations. The chant aims to focus your intention and energy on the desired outcome.
  • Connection to the Divine: In the Norse tradition, galdr was used to communicate with the gods and goddesses. Before performing your galdr, it could be beneficial to meditate or pray to the deities, especially Odin, the god of magic and runes, to guide and empower your practice.
  • The Ritual: Choose a quiet and comfortable space for your ritual. You might want to surround yourself with symbols or items that connect you to the Norse tradition or your chosen runes. Speak or sing your incantation, focusing on the sounds, your breath, and your intention.
  • Respect and Responsibility: Remember, galdr was part of a sacred tradition where words were seen to hold immense power. It is vital to approach this practice with respect and a sense of responsibility.

It is important to mention that practicing galdr in the modern world is a personal journey. While historical texts and archaeological findings can guide us, much comes down to your interpretation and how you feel connected to these ancient practices. Always approach it with respect and an open mind, and the practice of galdr can become a powerful tool for personal transformation and spiritual growth.

Examples of Old Norse Spells

While the specific words and rituals of Old Norse spells have largely been lost to history, we have some surviving examples and descriptions of the types of spells they might have used. Here are some general examples based on the aspects of Norse magic we know:

  • Odin’s Rune Song: Found in the Hávamál, a section of the Poetic Edda, this collection of verses, also known as ‘rune charms,’ details Odin’s self-sacrifice to gain knowledge of the runes and their magical powers. Each charm represents a particular magical application, ranging from victory in battle to healing wounds to seducing a love interest.
  • Love Spells: Norse literature provides us with the notion of love spells. These could have used certain runes, such as Gebo, representing gifts and love. A charm might be carved on a piece of wood or an amulet and given to the object of affection.
  • Protection Spells: The Vikings often sought divine protection before going into battle. They used the Algiz rune for this purpose, possibly inscribing it on their weapons or armor.
  • Weather Spells: The Viking sagas tell tales of völvas performing elaborate rituals to control the weather, which was crucial for their maritime activities.
  • Fertility Spells: Runes like Ingwaz, associated with the god Freyr and fertility, were likely used in spells to promote the fertility of both land and people.

Remember, the Norse belief system was deeply interconnected; spells were not performed in isolation but were part of rituals involving chants, offerings, and a profound respect for the deities and forces. These examples offer a glimpse into the enchanting world of Norse magic, where the power of words and symbols held the key to manipulating the course of fate.

Norse Magic Symbols

The Nordic pantheon and belief system gave rise to a plethora of symbols and signs, each with its unique significance. Some of these symbols were used in their magical practices, often forming the cornerstone of their spellwork. Here are some key signs of Norse magic.

  1. Runes: The most important and prevalent symbols of Norse magic are the runes, known collectively as the Elder Futhark. This runic alphabet comprised 24 symbols, each bearing a name and a range of associated meanings. They were used for divination, protection, invoking the gods, and casting spells.
  2. Vegvísir: The Vegvísir, or the Viking compass, was a magical symbol designed to help the bearer navigate through stormy or harsh weather. The literal meaning of Vegvísir is ‘wayfinder.’ Despite its later origins (17th century), it is deeply rooted in Norse magical tradition.
  3. Aegishjalmur: Also known as the Helm of Awe, Aegishjalmur is a symbol of protection and might. Vikings often inscribed this symbol on their foreheads (via invisible ink) before battle to ensure victory and protection.
  4. Valknut: The Valknut, or ‘knot of the slain,’ is a symbol associated with Odin, consisting of three interlocking triangles. It is believed to represent the soul’s journey and is often associated with rites of passage rituals.
  5. Bindrunes: Bindrunes combine two or more rune symbols to create a talisman with combined magical properties. They were customarily used for protection, love, and success.
  6. Yggdrasil: Yggdrasil, the world tree, is a symbol of the Norse cosmos. Although not a ‘magic symbol’ in the traditional sense, Yggdrasil was an essential part of Norse cosmology and played a significant role in rituals and as a symbol on amulets.

These Norse magic symbols are potent reminders of a civilization that saw the world through a magical lens, where gods, giants, and humans interacted, and destiny was woven by the Norns. Their symbols carry that legacy forward, symbols not only of their magical practices but of their unique worldview.

Who Is the Viking God of Magic?

In Norse mythology, Odin, the All-Father, is considered the god of many things, including war, wisdom, poetry, and, importantly, magic. Known for his relentless pursuit of knowledge and power, Odin is often depicted as a complex and enigmatic figure who goes to great lengths to acquire magical abilities and insights.

Odin’s association with magic is particularly evident in his connection to the practice of Seiðr, a form of Norse sorcery. Interestingly, Seiðr was primarily practiced by women, called völvas. For Odin, a male, to practice Seiðr was culturally controversial, reflecting his commitment to gaining magical prowess regardless of societal norms.

The acquisition of the knowledge of runes, a vital magical system in Norse tradition, is another testament to Odin’s role as the god of magic. According to the Poetic Edda, a primary source of Norse mythology, Odin sacrificed himself by hanging from the cosmic tree Yggdrasil for nine nights, pierced by his spear. This ordeal led him to discover the runes and their magical properties, granting him immense wisdom and power.

Additionally, Odin possessed several magical artifacts that further reinforced his status as the god of magic. These include his spear Gungnir, which never misses its mark; his ring Draupnir, which magically duplicates itself every ninth night; and his ravens, Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory), who fly across the world each day, returning to whisper all they have seen and heard into their master’s ear.

Regardless of his associations with war and death, Odin’s thirst for knowledge, wisdom, and the magical arts make him the Viking god of magic. His stories illustrate a complex understanding of magic as a tool of power, a source of wisdom, and a means of manipulating fate and destiny.


The Old Norse spells and enchantments, imbued with the rich cultural and spiritual beliefs of the Norse people, provide a fascinating insight into their interaction with the world around them. Norse rune spells, Norse pagan spells, Norse weather spells, old Norse charms, spoken spells, and rhymes highlight the importance of symbology, linguistics, and cosmology in their spell-casting practices. As we venture deeper into understanding these ancient practices, it is clear that they offer a beautiful tapestry of knowledge, wisdom, and a unique perspective of harmonizing with the universe.