Seithr & Norse Shamanism

There is a growing interest in recreating the ancient oracular or 'shamanistic' techniques that are commonly referred to by Asatruar as seithr and spae-craft. The word "seidr" is spelled with a letter from the Old Norse or Icelandic alphabet called "eth". Since "eth" has a phonetic value somewhere between "d" and "th", seithr is variously spelled in English as "seid", "seidh", "seidr", "seidhr", "seith", or "seithr". Read these webpages to learn more about it.

Peregrinus - What is Seid?  -  "...The shamanistic trolldom (magic) that in Norden primarily was performed by women (volver). Also some of the gods such as Odin and Fro/ya, practiced it. Because of his seiding, Odin was accused of being unmanly. Seid had the same character as the Siberian and Saamic shamanism. The seidwoman would fall into a trance, while a choir of other women would evoke her guardian spirit to come to her aid. In her inspired state the spirits would inform her concerning the things she had been asked to ask; about what the weather was going to be, about events that would occur, about happiness and misfortune for man, acre and cattle. It also happened that her soul traveled to other worlds to fetch knowledge while the body lay lifeless..." More

 The Fundamental Importance and use of Seidh, by Graena Vanswynn: "In Nordic History there have been two kinds of magick practiced among the peoples of the Ancient North. One begin Galdr, the other being Seidh. Galdr develops one's will and self control of their conscience and environment, Galdr implements the usage of symbols for communication or divination; these symbols being Runes, staves, et cetera. Seidh, however, is about the loss of one's control of self, conscience, and environment; it is about the inhibited sumbersion of one's self into something outside the practicer's persona. Seidh has been called the Shamanism of the North. It was the Vanic Goddess Freya who first taught the art of Seidh to the Aes, specifically the Alfather Odhinn. Seidh is the original magickal art of the Wanes, thus Galdr is of the Ases..." More

Hrafnar - A society for the re-creation of the seithr tradition. Diana Paxson's group, Hrafnar, has been working with and refining such techniques since the early 1980's, with remarkable success. Various groups around the country have been adopting or adapting Hrafnar's techniques or in some cases, striking out on their own to learn about this specifically Nordic technique of seeking knowledge. More

Hrafnar Seidh Training and schedule of Performance of Oracular Seidh at conferences and festivals.

Diiana Paxson Interview. ."..At the beginning of Ynglingasaga, Snorri lists Odin's magical skills, in a passage which identifies them as "seidh". They include all the things commonly ascribed to shamans, although given entirely in negative terms, such as weather-working, affecting people's minds, spirit journeying, etc. In the sagas there are stories about people using seidh to cause storms at sea, get information about people or places who are distant, shape-change, etc. The best-known story that may indicate going into trance to gain knowledge is the incident in which the lawspeaker of the Althing, Thorgeir of Lightwater, wrapped up in his cloak and meditated until he came up with a compromise that led to the gradual conversion of Iceland to Christianity without civil war...". More

Seidh - Return of the Volva by Diana Paxson - "Darkness covers the tents scattered across the drying grass of the festival grounds with a kindly shadow; at the far end of the sloping valley, the cliffs are edged by the first silver shimmer of the rising moon. As its light grows, it outlines a canvas pavilion and glimmers on the upturned faces of the folk gathered before it. They are gazing at a tall chair like a throne, but higher and draped with a bearskin, where a veiled figure waits, her body motionless, her face in shadow. "The gate is passed, the seidkoner waits," says the woman sitting on the fur-covered stool below the high seat. "Is there one here who would ask a question?..." More

Sex, Status, and Seidh: Homosexuality and Germanic Religion, by Diana L. Paxson. "For a man to take a female role, especially in a sexual relationship, was socially unacceptable to the Vikings....In the passage describing Odin's magic, Snorri uses a specific term, "ergi" to indicate the shamefulness of seidh magic. In other contexts this word and its derivatives are usually translated as lust or lewdness, specifically in the sense of sexual receptiveness. ...These references may help us to understand how effeminacy and passive homosexuality became equated with magical power. Effective magic requires the practitioner to unite the powers of the conscious and unconscious, of intelligence and emotion. In many shamanic traditions, cross-dressing allows the shaman to walk "between" genders, and to unite or balance within him or herself the abilities associated with each. Upsetting ordinary gender assumptions loosens the psyche and allows one to perceive in a new way..." More

Runes, Seidh, and Beyond, by Hringari Ódinssen. A poetic look.

Where does a Seithman go? "  It comes up periodically: "Where does a sei<eth>man go when he dreams?" It's an question with a lot of bad answers. The answer really depends on who you're talking to. If you talk to a person with a Psych. 101 background, he says "Into the recesses of the mind." Another versed in the New Age says "Into the Land of Dreams" ("Oh, boy," says the Seithman as he rolls his eyes.) The ever-wise skeptic will say "No place. You're hallucinatin', bud!" Yep, everybody's got an answer, and only about 2-5% have got a clue.
       There's a variety of things that happen to seith folk when they're seething. Well now, there's a term that might require some explanation: seething. Seething is a thing that happens to us. It is like the point where you drop off to sleep. The eyes roll upwards, the body releases, there is a coolness or heat, and a hot chill up the spine knocking the joints apart. It is a flow of power out of the depths of Hvergelmir. It is the only luck we have, and it happens to us. It comes unbidden. It is a falling and flying at the same time like when der Glückspilz washes over us. It is like the icy waters which forever boil up out of the original Well, and, at the same time, the warm summer rains which wash back down to the Land of the Ancestors.
    Seething comes from outside, a wind blowing into us.
    Seething washes our soul out through a hole in the back of our neck.
    Seething shakes out our spine like a dusty rug.
    Seething jerks the arms from the sockets..."

Interview with Edred Thorsson on Seith and Chaos Magic - "What is Seidhr and how is it connected to the idea of Chaos? Now it is generally imagined that Seidhr is a kind of evil magic practiced by Norse shamans -- especially female ones. Indeed, Seidhr is an ancient form of magic practiced by the Scandinavian peoples at least since the Viking Age. Seidhr is generally connected with the Gods and Goddesses, called the Vanir, and especially with Freyja, whose name is really the title "Lady". Seidhr is also generally contrasted with another word for "magic" in the Northern tongue: Galdr. Seidhr is connected to the concept of "Chaos" in the sense that the theory upon which Seidhr works is very similar to that upon which Chaos Magic works. Both are based on a materialistic paradigm -- what Peter Carroll calls "Ether" and the ancient Germanic peoples called Ginnung, or Chaos. This paradigm is, by the way, to be contrasted with the essentially symbolic theory underlying Galdr -- a theory which is semiotic and linguistic in character, not substance-based. The underlying theory of Seidhr is pretty much the same as "the magical paradigm" described by Carroll in his Liber Kaos. However, that general theory does not account for Galdr, which is independent of the flows of the time/space continuum..." More

Spae-craft, Seithr and Shamanism by Kveldulfr Gundarsson - "...many of us have begun to reach towards the less well-known crafts of the Northern people - the crafts that deal with the workings of the soul, of changed awareness and trance, of faring to the realms of the god/esses and wights and calling them to speak in the Middle-Garth as well. ...The practice of these techniques ... to the unaccompanied beginner... are even more dangerous than more limited forms of magic such as galdr-craft. All sorts of magic can twist one's wyrd or cause harm unmeant; but when practicing soul-craft, you are traveling out into a perilous, unknown world filled with wights who may well not be friendly..." More Seidr Craft "Trance Magic is a misleading term and should be placed in its proper perspective. There are many who claim that the shapeshifting ability of the ancients was little more than visions that took place during unconscious or "trance" states. ...Trance is only the first of the states required for learning to effect a "sending". The trance condition is necessary for novice volva or vitki  in order to learn effective use of Seidr magic but it isn't the whole of the craft.  Blocking out "real world" distractions is a paramount skill. Without it little can be accomplished in the shadow realms. It is useful to clear the mind and enhance the shaman's ability to focus and visualize the desired conditions.  Ideally, the practitioner should be able to achieve a trance state by will alone.." More

Seidhr for Spirit Rescue - by Patrick "Jordsvin" Buck, Assistant Godhi, Hammerstead Kindred . "In Summer 1996 I had the occasion to adapt oracular seidhr to help a number of ghosts pass on from a local 200-year-old farmhouse which has been in the same family for over 200 years. This is seidhr for spirit rescue, or as I've been known to call it, "seidhr for de-ghosting." My guide while I was in seidhr-trance and going into Hela's realm was a local Neo-pagan psychic and trance medium whom I had previously briefed in seidhr techniques. I had the enthusiastic permission of the house's owner. The first session was conducted upstairs with just myself and my guide. I journeyed into Hel while my psychic friend, Ramona, talked to the ghosts and asked who would like to pass on but needed help. She took them into herself and grabbed my hand when ready. I was prepared for what followed, but it was still a unique experience. The ghosts passed from her into my left hand, through me, and out my right hand into Hela's kingdom. I felt three pulses in what felt just like a fairly powerful electric shock! ..." More

Seidhr and the anthropologist - by Jenny Blain, Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax Nova Scotia, Canada. "They sit, three raised above all others in the room, hands joined: Ur<eth>r, who knows all past, and who has direction of this ritual; Wer<eth>ende who holds the strands that make the present, and tells their weaving; centrally Skuld, obligation, asking: "do you understand me?" Before them stands Jordsvin, the guide for this spae-working, who asks "is there one here who has a question for the Norns?" And one after another, we step forth.
    "We have come here by means of a journey beginning in the barn at Martha's Orchard, which serves for the great hall of our feasting and assembly at Trothmoot, June 1997. We have seen the three women move to the high seats, we have heard the song which, in this spae-working, attunes our consciousnesses to the cosmology of the North, the high clear voice of Wer<eth>ende, the present, the now, singing..."

Seithman Rants - "It is truly a rant page which was created in direct opposition to some of the New Age sites drifting about in cyberspace so that many of the essays, rants, and notes here may seem somewhat jaded when it comes to the "fluff and light" thing...Sei<eth>folk are, in one sense, what the noaide is to the Saami or what the szaman is to the Tungus, but, in another sense, they are their own. Sei<eth>folk have their own cosmology and customs for navigating the realms of their ecstasy....We, the sei<eth>folk, belong to the culture of the northern Germanic peoples. Our role is different than the noaide's, the szaman's, and the New Age shamanic practitioner's. We follow the code of ethics suggested by the Hávamál which does not necessarily match neatly with the 20th century neo-shaman's sense of rightness. Our heritage is of the northern Germanic peoples.
    "If you do "totem-animals" or visualize fylgja as a Heathen guardian angel, if you believe that your chosen patron God or Goddess is going to carry you "home" after you kick off just because you've been a good little Heathen, or if you're fond of Norse astrology, Norse Wicca, or Norse tarot, this may not really be your chosen site. We sei<eth>folk do what we do because we have no choice! It is what we have been dealt by the Nornir. We don't "seethe" because it might be "fun," we "seethe" because we must!"

He Seidh/She Seidh - On the Metaethics of Oracular Seidhr, by Maryam Povey Webster. "One of the most challenging and fascinating explorations of Northern magick today is occurring in the Oracular Seidhr movement here in America. This movement, while spirited and worthy of further study, suffers by its very nature of practice some of the most serious magickal pitfalls and potential for incorrect usage in the Northern European, magicko-religious structure...The term "seidhr" has been used primarily in the late twentieth century America to denote the oracular practices of Northern European spirituality, for which the proper term would actually be "spae" or "spá" craft. "Seidhr", however, has come to designate the specific and elaborate ritual structure that has come to enshroud the practice and shall be used for the purpose of this paper...
    "Shapeshifting or Hamfarir may or may not accompany such scrying ventures, although wise spáfolk do well to utilize their animal allies to facilitate spirit-flight and safe return from their journeying.
    "This article focuses on the most commonly perceived three areas of need: Accountability and credibility of the channel,"Must Have's" and "Must Do's" for Facilitators of the Seidhr session;
safety adjuncts to public seidhr practice; and an information module for the audience." More

Viking Answer Lady: Women and Magic in the Sagas: Seidr and Spá
     "The Norse practitioners of the various arts of magic were highly respected professionals whose services were valued by their communities. In the Norse literature, men as well as women appear wielding the arts of magic, however, it is explicitly stated in several places that by doing so these men were taking on a female art so thoroughly that it endangered their reputation and manhood... It has been noted that women's magico-religious activities are always associated with their socially accepted and defined roles. Sometimes women's magic and religion reflect their domestic duties, while at other times magic and religion are the antithesis of a woman's socially expected role, acting as an outlet for rage and frustration but abhorred by the men who define a woman's role in their society. This is likewise true for magic in the world of the Norse woman. The woman of the Viking Age found magic in her spindle and distaff, wove spells in the threads of her family's clothing, and revenged herself on the powerful using the skills of sorcery."

Ground Rules for Journeying, by Ragnheid, Storyteller and Bard (Jenny Blain)
"1. Be aware of what is around. Look before leaping. Don't rush into situations.
2. Speak to those that you meet. Always be polite and courteous. Be truthful when they ask you questions
3. If a creature asks to come with you, accept their company or help. (Caveat below -- if they put conditions on their help, be wary!)
4. If some creature or person asks for help, give it. If the help is beyond your means, explain this -- the creature may tell you how to fulfill it. Your ally may assist you, if you ask. The help may be needed within the journey, or in ordinary reality.
5. If you make a promise, keep it. This is regardless of whether it refers to actions within the journey, or those you should complete in ordinary reality.
6. If some creature or person asks you to share food, share it.
7. If a creature you've helped gives you a token, poem, or anything else, keep it. It will later be useful.
8. If you undertake a task, do it to the best of your ability.
9. If you cannot do a task, ask your ally or those with you.
10. If you want to go home (return to a safe place in the journey, or wake to ordinary reality), say so..."

 Called by the Disir, by Susan Granquist - "In descriptions of Seidr the term shamanism is often used in a vague way, with a few general parallels to other shamanic cultures and magical communities We find statements that Seidr in the Eddas, sagas and other literature and lore of Northern Europe is obviously related, or perhaps derivative of shamanism, but such articles and studies rarely lead the reader to any firm conclusion as to how they are related. From an academic or reconstructionist position it remains partially obscure and distant. For a shaman it is anything but vague, as the experience informs and the lore expands on that knowledge, but that is in itself in the nature of the shaman or seidkona. It is easier for the shaman to identify important information that is often overlooked or dismissed without further investigation."... More

Imbas Forosna - "Imbas Forosna is knowledge that illuminates, and while the mechanics of the practice are in doubt historically it is recorded as a form of prophesy or enlightenment.  My own reading of the commentaries on this subject have left me convinced that it's origins are most probably a form of seidhr (it's believe to have come from England or Norway) especially since in it's earliest forms it was practiced almost exclusively by woman. More

An Alternative Spæ Rite - by Swain Wodening of Angelseaxise Ealdriht : "Spæ is most often mistakenly called seidr in modern Asatru. The reason for this confusion is due to the use of the word seidr in Erik the Red's Saga, the only good secondary source of a spæcræft ritual.  The word spæ its self means literally "spying" but in the sense of "seeing with secondsight."  Its relationship to Old Norse speja is roughly as to seer is to "to see."  Both are related to Old English spyrian" to investigate." Its primary characteristic was the active obtaining of information, knowledge, and wisdom whether about the past, present, or possible future. Spæcræft was a part of seidr, but not all spæcræft was seidr or vice versa. The Icelandic lawspeakers performed spæ by "going under the hide or hood," yet this was not seen as seidr, nor was the "mound sitting" of kings, or the taking of omens.   Yet all of these bear resemblances to spæ. Other references to Seidr in the lore on the other hand would seem to indicate much more than mere spæcræft. Seidr appeared to have involved manipulation of the human mind and soul..." more

Beginning Trance Work for Spæ and Seidhr by Swain Wodening of Angelseaxise Ealdriht : "In order to be able to perform spæ, one must be able to go into trance. This is true regardless of whether one uses the method of spirit travel made popular by Hrafnr, or whether one is using the method of inviting wights to them. In order to perform trance work, one must first learn basic meditation techniques as covered in the articles on Breathing, and Beginning Meditation. Once these are mastered, one is ready to begin trance work in earnest. The best form of meditative technique is empty mind meditation. In order to hear the spirits one is communing with, one must be able to silence their own thoughts. In addition, they also need to develop the ability to sense that which is outside their mind. Both of these can be accomplished by learning and practicing empty mind meditation. A spæ worker going into trance to communicate with spirits must go through several steps. In this article we will only be dealing with the invitation method of performing spæ, and the steps therefore follow its ritual outline. Many of the principles however can also be applied to the Hrafnr style of spæ or "oracular seidh," as well as thylcraft, and mound sitting..." more

The Staff and the Song: Using the Old Nordic Seidr in Modern Shamanism by Annette Høst - "Maybe you, like I, have felt a longing to let your shamanic or other spiritual practice take root in your own land and its traditions. For many years I have been enchanted by old stories about the Nordic form of shamanism called seidr. It was practiced mostly by women called volvas, who used ecstatic song as means for their soul to journey. As I have explored the seidr, and included it in my own shamanic practice and teaching, I have found that it has so much to reveal. In this article we will look at seidr from the inside, from the perspective of the shamanic practitioner, and focus on what the seidr tradition has to offer and teach us here and now. The greatest gift is the treasure of ecstatic song and magic chanting...." more

Jordsvin's Seidr Links - Rather than listing each of the links, go right to Jordsvin's page and follow them yourself. There are some excellent articles repreesnted, including several more by Jenny Blain.

Ratatosk is a small network group for people who are specifically interested in Scandinavian shamanism, asatru, runes, rune magic, rune oracle work, seid etc.,

Sejdsankeren - A mailing list featuring discussions on Seithr. Studies in Norse folk-beliefs, magic-belief and practice.

Seidr - Another mailing list for the study of Seidr and related subjects.

ShamanismNorthern European Shamanism - "...Most people forget that Europe once was the home of many tribes. Some of those tribal traditions are still alive, particularly among the Saami people, who used to be called, "Lapps". These are the Arctic people who once raised reindeer for a living. Their Shamanic tradition is still alive, and is closely related to the traditions of the Norse and Germans. Northern Tradition used such elements of Shamanism as the World Tree, shape shifting and drumming and dancing to induce a trance..." More

Scandinavian Center for the Study of Shamanism - "...The word 'shaman' (pronounced SHAH-MAN) has become a new-age catchword, used by many but understood by few. Originally, it comes from the Evinki people of Siberia, and literally means "the one who knows." Today, in the western world, some mean that a shaman is any kind of native medicine man or woman, while others think it is anyone with a strong personality and an intense stare. But, in fact, a shaman is defined by the way she or he works. Quite simply, a shaman is a woman or man who changes his or her state of consciousness, at will, in order to contact and/or travel to another reality to obtain power and knowledge. Mission accomplished, the shaman journeys home to use this power and knowledge to help either himself or others.
    ...Healing is, and always has been, the main work of the shaman. Central to the understanding of shamanism, and especially shamanic healing, is the concept of power. Essentially, power in shamanism is not power as might, but rather power as energy . Traditionally, the shaman sees two main reasons for illness. The patient either has something inside which should not be there (an unwanted power intrusion), or is missing something that should be there (power-loss). As all things have a spirit or soul from the shaman's point of view, this holds true for illnesses as well. In the case of a power intrusion it is the shaman's job to remove the spirit of the unwanted power..."

Fairy tale Shamans - "...Many people wish they had been raised in some tribal tradition so they would have grown up with a shamanic tradition. What they don't know is that most people who have grown up speaking English have already done so. The fairy tales we all heard growing up were actually hidden shaman stories. Here is an example. Jack sells his cow to a mysterious stranger for a handful of magic beans. The beans grow into a huge beanstalk, and Jack climbs to an upper world to discover treasures and bring them to his people. Here is a typical Shaman experience. The shaman climbs a tree to the upper world, and discovers symbols of spiritual power that help his/her people..." More

Saami of Far Northern Europe - The nomadic tribes of arctic Scandinavia have a rich tradition of shamanism.

Other Websites on Shamanism

A Shamanic Path

Bearwalker's Shamanic Teachings and Techniques

David Scott's Core Shamanism

Deoxyribonucleic Autonomous Zone

Foundation for Shamanic Studies

High-tech Paganism-Digital Polytheism

Mongolian Shamanism

"Shaman" - Journal of the International Society for Shamanic Research



Books on Seidr

Blaine, Jenny: Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic: Ecstasy and Neo-Shamanism in North European Paganism, Routledge, 2001: ISBN: 0415256518. A case-study of Northern European shamanistic practice, or seidr, explores the way in which the ancient Norse belief systems evoked in the Icelandic Sagas and Eddas have been rediscovered and reinvented by groups in Europe and North America. Recommended.

SeidwaysFries, Jan: Seidways: Shaking, Swaying and Serpent Mysteries, Mandrake, 1996, ISBN=1869928369. Despite the title there are only a couple of chapters remotely pertaining to seidr. The book provides a survey of the manifestation of magical trance and possession techniques through several magical traditions - shamanisn, mesmerism, draconian cults and the nightside of European paganism.. The book was written before Seid became well-known and was publiished earlier under a different title.


 Chisholm, James and Flowers, Stephen E.: A Source-Book of Seid . For years only available to members of the Rune-Gild, this volume is now generally available. This work contains every major reference to the practice of seiÿ in Old Norse literature, as well as references to it from Latin and Arabic sources. The Source Book contains original texts and translations. Never have all of the sources for the practice of this kind of magic been gathered in an easily accessible form. Seid is the source of continuing fascination. For anyone really interested in this area of study it is necessary to read and and study this book. Available from Runa-Raven Press.

Thorrsson, Edred: Witchdom of the True: A Study of the Vana-Troth and the Practice of Seidr . This is the long-awaited and much anticipated study of the history, lore, religion and magic of the Vanir branch of the Germanic way. Its contents will prove of extreme interest to those of the Wiccan path or modem witchcraft, for it is in the way of the Vanir, or Wanes, that their roots are to be found. Originally titled True Wicca. Available from Runa-Raven Press.