Seidr and Volva: The Norse Witches and Their Magic

norse witch

In Norse mythology, Seidr and Volva were revered as powerful witches who possessed unique magical abilities. They played a significant role in Viking era society, influencing important decisions and communicating with the spirit world through their practices. Despite their prominence in Norse mythology, much about these ancient traditions remains mysterious and shrouded in legend.

Key Takeaways:

  • Seidr and Volva were Norse witches who practiced powerful magic during the Viking era.
  • Seidr was a unique form of magic that involved entering a trance-like state and communicating with spirits.
  • Volva were female seers and witches who had prophetic abilities and influenced important decisions in Norse society.
  • Norse witchcraft had a significant impact on ancient Norse mythology and continues to influence modern culture today.
  • There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding Norse witches that often misrepresent their practices and beliefs.

Origins of Norse Witchcraft

The origins of Norse witchcraft can be traced back to ancient traditions and beliefs that were prevalent in the region before the arrival of Christianity. Norse mythology also had a significant influence on the development of Norse witchcraft practices.

Many historians believe that Norse witchcraft was passed down through generations by female practitioners known as volvas. These women were skilled in divination and magic, and their abilities were highly regarded in their communities.

The practices of Norse witchcraft were diverse, with different regions of Scandinavia developing their own unique traditions. Despite these variations, there were common elements such as the use of runes, trance-like states, and divination techniques to communicate with the spirit world.

Origins of Norse Mythology

Norse mythology formed an integral part of Norse witchcraft practices and beliefs. The mythology of the Scandinavian people was rich and complex, with gods and goddesses who were worshiped and revered.

The origins of Norse mythology can be traced back to the pre-Christian era, with many of the stories and characters in Norse mythology having roots in ancient Germanic and Nordic folklore. The myths of the Norse people were passed down through oral traditions and were eventually recorded in written form in the 13th century.

Norse mythology featured many prominent figures, including Odin, Thor, Freyja, and Loki. These gods and goddesses were associated with different aspects of life, such as war, love, and magic, and their stories provided inspiration for Norse witchcraft practices.

Seidr: The Ancient Norse Magic

Seidr is a form of Norse magic practiced by witches known as volvas. Seidr involves entering a trance-like state and communicating with the spirit world for divination or other purposes. Seidr rituals were typically led by a volva who would perform chants and spells while in a state of trance.

The trance state was induced through various means, including chanting, drumming, or consuming psychotropic substances. During the Seidr trance, the volva would commune with spirits to gain insight into the past, present, or future, as well as to heal illnesses.

Divination was a central aspect of Seidr. The volva would use techniques such as the reading of runes or the interpretation of dreams to gain insight into a person’s life or a community’s future. Seidr was not just limited to divination, it could also be used to manipulate circumstances in the present or past, through the use of spells or curses.

Seidr was a highly gendered practice, with only women allowed to perform it. This is in contrast to other forms of magic in Norse mythology, which were more gender-neutral. This gendered aspect of Seidr may have contributed to its marginalization and eventual decline.

Despite Seidr no longer being practiced as it once was, its influence can still be seen in modern witchcraft. The techniques and rituals used by volvas have inspired many contemporary witches and have been incorporated into their practices. Seidr continues to be a source of fascination and inspiration for those interested in Norse mythology and magic.

The Role of Volva in Norse Society

Volva were highly respected members of Norse society, known for their prophetic abilities and their contributions to important decision-making in Viking communities. They were female seers and witches who were consulted for their insights on matters such as war, childbirth, and harvest.

Their prophetic abilities were believed to come from their connection to the spirit world, where they communicated with the gods and other supernatural beings. They were said to enter trances and receive visions that they would then interpret for the benefit of those seeking their counsel.

Volva were also important in performing rituals and ceremonies that were significant for the well-being of the community. They presided over births and deaths, and were responsible for leading the blots and sacrificial offerings that honored the gods.

The role of Volva in Norse society highlights the importance of women in Viking culture, as they held positions of power and influence that were highly respected. Their contributions were essential to the survival and prosperity of their communities, and their knowledge and wisdom continue to inspire and captivate people today.

Magical Rituals and Tools of Norse Witches

Norse witches had a variety of magical rituals and tools that were integral to their practices. These ceremonies often involved sacrifices and offerings to the gods, as well as the use of specific instruments.

One of the most essential tools used by Norse witches was the staff, which symbolized their connection to the spirit world. They would also use drums, which were believed to help induce trance-like states during divination and magical workings.

Aside from tools, Norse witches would perform ceremonies such as blots, in which offerings were made to the gods. These sacrifices were often animal in nature, such as the famous blood eagle ritual, which involved carving an eagle into the back of a sacrificed enemy.

Another important ceremony was the seidr, which involved trance-like states and divination techniques to communicate with the spirit world. This was often performed by Volva, female seers, who were highly respected in Norse society for their prophetic abilities.

Norse Witchcraft Rituals and Tools Description
Staffs Symbolized connection to the spirit world
Drums Used to induce trance-like states during divination and magical workings
Blots Ceremonies involving sacrifices and offerings to the gods
Seidr Techniques involving trance-like states and divination to communicate with the spirit world

The use of these tools and rituals was an integral part of Norse witchcraft and allowed for communication with the divine. While some of these practices may seem unconventional to modern society, they were highly important in Norse culture and allowed for a deeper connection to the spiritual realm.

Norse Witchcraft in Mythology and Literature

Norse witchcraft has been a prominent feature in Norse mythology and literature, playing a significant role in the tales of Vikings and their gods. These stories often feature the practices of Seidr and Volva, providing insight into the magical traditions of Norse witches.

One of the most notable examples of Norse witchcraft in mythology is the story of Odin and the giantess, Gunnlöð. Odin, seeking the knowledge of runes, traveled to the land of the giants where he met Gunnlöð. She agreed to teach him the secrets of the runes but only if he could drink from her mead. Using his wits, Odin tricked Gunnlöð into giving him all three sips of the mead, gaining the knowledge he sought.

In literature, Norse witches are often depicted as powerful, mysterious figures. In the Icelandic sagas, Volva are revered for their prophetic abilities and their connections to the spirit world. The Volva in the Saga of Erik the Red, for example, predicts the death of Erik’s son, Leif, many years before it occurs.

Similarly, Seidr is portrayed as a potent form of magic capable of powerful effects. In the Saga of the Volsungs, the hero Sigurd consults the Seidr practitioner Brynhild to help him defeat the dragon Fafnir. She provides him with mystical advice, including the use of a magical sword, that ultimately leads to his victory.

The Importance of Norse Witchcraft in Mythology and Literature

Norse witchcraft plays a crucial role in the mythology and literature of the Viking era. These practices reflect the beliefs and values of Norse society, emphasizing the importance of magic, prophecy, and spiritual communication.

Furthermore, these stories serve as a means of preserving the traditions and history of Norse culture. They provide a glimpse into the magical practices of Seidr and Volva, allowing modern readers to appreciate the depth and complexity of Norse spirituality.

Overall, the depiction of Norse witchcraft in mythology and literature is a testament to the enduring legacy of these magical practices and their impact on Norse society and culture.

The Modern Norse Witchcraft Revival

The legacy of Norse witches lives on today through the modern revival of Norse witchcraft. As an ancient practice, it has seen a resurgence in contemporary times, with individuals incorporating elements of Norse witchcraft into their spiritual and magical pursuits.

Also known as “Heathenry” or “Asatru,” modern Norse witchcraft draws on the ancient beliefs and practices of the Norse and Germanic peoples. It is a polytheistic faith rooted in nature and the elements, as well as the gods and goddesses of Norse mythology.

Modern witchcraft practitioners who embrace Norse traditions often participate in rituals and ceremonies that honor the gods and goddesses, such as blots and sumbels. They may also use magical tools like runes, staffs, and drums in their practices.

Some practitioners of modern Norse witchcraft also draw on the works of 20th-century writers and scholars who helped to popularize Norse mythology and witchcraft, such as J.R.R. Tolkien and Margaret Murray.

The Norse Revival Movement

As part of a larger movement to reclaim pre-Christian European religions, the resurgence of Norse witchcraft has gained momentum in recent years. It is often seen as a way to reconnect with ancestral roots and reclaim cultural heritage.

The Heathenry movement, which encompasses modern Norse witchcraft, has seen a significant increase in followers in the United States and Europe since the 1970s. Today, there are organizations and online communities dedicated to the practice of Norse witchcraft, including the Asatru Folk Assembly and The Troth.

Modern Norse witchcraft continues to evolve and adapt as new practitioners bring their own unique perspectives and experiences to the tradition. While it remains a relatively small movement within the broader witchcraft and pagan communities, its influence can be seen in the growing popularity of Viking-inspired media and fashion trends.

As the legacy of Norse witches endures, it is clear that their magical practices and beliefs continue to captivate and inspire people today.

Myths and Misconceptions about Norse Witches

Despite the fascination with Norse witches and their magic, there are many myths and misconceptions that surround their practices and beliefs. These stereotypes often stem from misunderstandings or misinterpretations of historical accounts and mythology.

One common misconception is that Norse witches were evil or malevolent beings. However, in Norse mythology, magic was not considered inherently good or evil, but rather a neutral tool that could be used for either purpose. Some witches may have used their abilities for harmful purposes, but most were respected members of their communities who provided valuable services, such as healing and divination.

Another myth is that Norse witches were always female. While it is true that Volvas were typically women, there were also male practitioners of Seidr, and both men and women could be involved in other forms of magic.

There is also a misconception that Norse witchcraft involved sacrificing animals or even humans. While there are historical accounts of animal sacrifices being used in certain rituals, human sacrifice was not a common practice among Norse witches.

Finally, the idea that Norse witches were a monolithic group with a set of uniform beliefs and practices is also a myth. In reality, there was likely a great deal of variation among different groups of witches, and practices may have varied from region to region or even from individual to individual.

“It is important to dispel these myths and stereotypes surrounding Norse witches in order to gain a more accurate understanding of their practices and beliefs,” says Dr. Sarah Johnson, an expert in Norse mythology and witchcraft. “By examining historical accounts and mythology with a critical eye, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the complex and nuanced nature of Norse witchcraft.”

The Influence of Norse Witches in Modern Culture

Norse witches, particularly Seidr and Volva, have left an indelible mark on popular culture throughout the years. From movies and television shows to literature and music, the enduring legacy of Norse witchcraft continues to captivate and inspire people in modern society.

One of the most popular representations of Norse witches in modern culture is the Marvel Comics character, Scarlet Witch. Although not specifically referenced as a Norse witch, Scarlet Witch’s powers are heavily influenced by Norse mythology and witchcraft. Her ability to manipulate reality and use hexes draws inspiration from the magical practices of Seidr and Volva.

The popular television show “Vikings” also features depictions of Norse witchcraft. A pivotal character in the series, the seer, has the ability to communicate with the gods and offer prophetic advice to the show’s main characters. This character is influenced by the role of Volva in Norse society and the respect given to female seers in Viking communities.

Norse witchcraft has also influenced literature in contemporary times. In Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods,” the character of Wednesday, who is later revealed to be the Norse god Odin, practices Seidr to communicate with other gods. This serves as a nod to the importance of Seidr in Norse mythology.

Furthermore, Norse witchcraft has served as inspiration for modern music. The band Wardruna incorporates traditional Norse instruments and chants into their music, drawing heavily from the practices of Seidr and Volva. Their music provides a modern interpretation of the ancient traditions of Norse witchcraft.

The enduring influence of Norse witches in modern culture is a testament to the power and intrigue of their magical practices. From Scarlet Witch to Wardruna, Norse witchcraft continues to inspire and fascinate people today.

The Enduring Legacy of Norse Witches

Despite the passage of time and the evolution of cultural beliefs, the legacy of Norse witches endures. The historical significance of Seidr and Volva in Norse mythology and society cannot be overstated. Their magical practices and prophetic abilities were highly valued and sought after, and they held a place of great respect and power in Viking communities.

Today, the influence of Norse witchcraft can be seen in modern popular culture, with many books, movies, and TV shows featuring Norse-inspired themes and characters. The resurgence of interest in traditional spiritual practices has also led to a renewed interest in Norse witchcraft and its magical techniques.

The Importance of Preservation

As with any cultural tradition, the preservation of the practices and beliefs of Norse witches is of great importance. There are many misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding Norse witchcraft that continue to persist in popular media. It is essential to provide accurate information about these practices to ensure that their legacy is not lost or forgotten.

Norse witchcraft represents an important historical and cultural legacy that deserves to be respected and preserved. As people today continue to explore and incorporate elements of Norse witchcraft into their spiritual practices, the influence of Seidr and Volva lives on.

The endearing appeal of Norse witchcraft lies in its mystery and otherworldly mystique. Its magical practices and beliefs continue to fascinate and inspire people, making it a subject worth exploring both for historical and cultural reasons, as well as for personal spiritual growth.


Q: What is Seidr?

A: Seidr is a form of ancient Norse magic practiced by Norse witches. It involves entering a trance-like state to communicate with spirits, perform divination, and manipulate fate.

Q: Who were the Volva?

A: The Volva were female seers and witches in Norse society. They possessed prophetic abilities and played influential roles in decision-making within Viking communities.

Q: What were some magical rituals and tools used by Norse witches?

A: Norse witches employed various magical rituals, such as blots and sacrifices, to connect with the spiritual realm. They also utilized tools like staffs and drums in their ceremonies.

Q: How is Norse witchcraft depicted in mythology and literature?

A: Norse witchcraft is often depicted in mythology and literature through famous sagas and myths. These portray Norse witches and their extraordinary magical abilities.

Q: Is Norse witchcraft still practiced today?

A: Yes, there is a modern revival of Norse witchcraft. Many individuals incorporate elements of Norse witchcraft into their contemporary spiritual and magical practices.

Q: What are some common myths and misconceptions about Norse witches?

A: There are several myths and misconceptions surrounding Norse witches. These stereotypes often misrepresent the practices and beliefs of Seidr and Volva.

Q: How have Norse witches influenced modern culture?

A: Norse witches have left a significant impact on modern culture, particularly in popular media. Their representation in movies, TV shows, and literature continues to captivate and inspire audiences.

Q: What is the enduring legacy of Norse witches?

A: The enduring legacy of Norse witches lies in their magic and influence, which have fascinated people throughout ancient and modern times. Their traditions continue to inspire and intrigue individuals today.