I find myself pondering over the possible answers to the various questions I foresee coming up in a scheduled interview I will be doing next week. I feel anxious as I want to be accurate and culturally correct. I want to pronounce the Norse names properly, and I wish to explain the colorful and richly complex Norse Concepts behind those Scandinavian words with as much accuracy, credibility, and honor they deserve. Most importantly, I wish to convey whatever it is my Ancestors which to say to the descendants who will be listening. Very anxiety-provoking indeed.
I was contacted by a friend that a inspiring film maker is interested in creating a work which will include a character loosely based on a Volva he knew previously in real life. This Artisan approached my friend in hopes of locating a person who could fill him in on the accurate background and general practices done by Modern Day Völva/Seiðkona’s. He is looking for a reasonable representation of what a 21st Century Norse mystic is; a spokesperson if you will. Gulp. “Please try in just a few sentences to describe what a Völva/Seiðkona IS, Mrs. Mulligan. What do you really do, and, oh yes, what exactly again is seiðr?”
Ok, now a bit of anxiety builds as I come to the realization this newly re-claimed tradition isn’t really easily explainable. Its neither a typical, nor a standardize path; even though most of its practitioners adhere to a deep knowing that the true power of this path stems from its Nordic roots, and those roots grew deep: There are certain aspects to this Northern European/Scandinavian tradition which is never to be forgotten nor excluded, not diluted or bastardized, from the core make-up that comprises the practice of this Norse Path. It is also a very dualistic system, as a Norse Völva/seiðkona is very much a communal, cultural, tribal- healing-power archetype who seeks to perform her skills for the betterment of the surrounding community. Yet there is no denying the fact each individual Völva/seiðkona does her work in a solitary manner which is then a lone expression of a singular personal experience of the tapping into ancient kenning/healing power on behalf of others who seek her aid. Alone. Alone to learn proficiency, the deeper aspects of the Norse arts of seiðr and magic, and the parts of self. First and foremost, being a Völva or a seiðkona is mostly a solitary practice, as well as it is a uniquely personal experience that is played out (impromptu and very real) for each Norse Witch or Shaman who privately takes up the Stav, or who regularly does útiseti unseen, or who does spa unnoticed for the sake of the world. No two Norse Witches will do their practice the same, so does this mean somethings wrong? Are we (by the sheer nature of seclusion) “bastardizing” this tradition simply because we must learn/decipher our most important lessons alone and intuitively relying more times than not, on the dreaded UPG for clarification of a theory, mythos, or a healing song?…. Only to find out later a Volva from Norway you meet at a workshop does it the exact same way! There is no ‘wrong way’ to practice the arts of the Volva if you are seriously dedicated to this Path; and I feel this is because of a now-ever-growing data base of accessible, shared, communal interpretation of the Lore, of our Ancestral history, (even as we are a vast and far-flung Tribe) and because of those mentors out there who are actually teaching seekers who ask to know more the ‘hidden’ information discovered by these mentoring folk in the ways with which they re-membered how to work fluently with the ancients energies available to us today.
I then came to understand, Modern Day Völva’s and Seiðkona’s might not do every style and step of their practices the same; but there is a shared, identifiable understanding of a skeletal structure that I have witnessed pervades this work collectively; uniformly done by all who are Heathen Mystics. This observation makes me feel assured we are all dipping from the same well of power, and that’s why certain steps or actions will forever remain the same, whether there is open communication amongst practitioners or not..
There are shared common steps Völva’s and seiðkona use to access Yggdrasil and the doorways into the nine worlds, based on the kennings our ancestors left to us. Each step is done uniquely, in a personal style, but always in a similar, consistent way none the less.
Therefore, for me, being a Völva who does seiðr is the path of the Wild Woman, the Wise Crone, and the fearless Priestess- Healer. It is a power generated from the union of the Individual Norse Mystic’s entire self( and all their soul parts) to the surrounding web of life and wyrd around them; with no ritual, spa session or healing, ever being a repeatable or replicated event. It is a series of singular works done as offerings for the gift to be a seiðkona and weave a chant into the web of wyrd. These rites and rituals becomes part of the collective whole thereby leaving us all very much connected and on the same page; albeit we are very different people with very individual ways, locations, languages, and lifestyles when doing our work.
In a nut shell, it becomes evident there are very similar elements that are shared/done/mirrored by all Norse Mystic practitioners universally, which is made accessible to any Heathen upon becoming a serious dedicant to the Norse path of Völva/seiðkona.
I recall that we who are the Wand~Wed and/or the Norse Pathwalkers, Rune Masters and Vitki’s, are all busy re-learning and re-assembling this tradition anew. Each Norse Witch or Shaman is predictably consumed for a time while hearkening to the universal urge of those ancient powers: ”Those which Always Were,” “They who Always ARE,” and “That which Always Must be.” Everyone is immersed in doing THIER Work in tuned with the Norse Cosmology, tirelessly heeding the directions of Those Whom they answer to/o (which in turn collectively effects the great tapestry of Wyrd). Pretty amazing, empowering and even a wee bit humbling yes?
So what am I to say in this upcoming interview???
Could I possibly speak (uniformly) for a demography of kindred who call themselves Heathen Witches and Norse Shamans- those spirit workers who are mavericks, trailblazers, and wise folk?
Nope. I can’t. And I really would rather not.
I can ONLY speak from my perspective, from my own personal experience of what being a 21st century Heathen and Völva has meant for my life. I feel I am attempting to keep a very unique and specific tradition as close to its origins as possible; however, since I wish to see it a viable, useable, and above all an accessible path to any or all who seek its ways. I want it to be passed along, growing it’s vitality by the virtue of some steady stream of adept kindred continually going to the well of Urd, visiting the nine worlds, and giving blot often to our Ancient Ones in our modern day world. There are those of us Heathens who are oath sworn to keep old ways alive, to accepting a role as a steward and a messenger of sorts. And in case you’re wondering, this is not some dream role of a lifetime! One’s life isn’t being like all problem free, just ‘cause your some sort of all powerful, Norse Magician. Oh Hela No! It is a sometimes somber, lonely, maddening path- best suited for those who like the wilderness, don’t seek out tons of creature comforts, and accepts its ok to hear messages on the wind (or in the middle of the night). The adept Volva knows once she sets forth on this path with earnest, her life is very much now HER OWN, AND, YET, she must dedicate her service to Those Who Need Her, or to “Those who Seek Her Services.” ~in Midgard and beyond. There is no such thing as a charmed Norse Witch, as the ultimate test is self-sovereignty. How well do you REALLY captain your own ship? Are you self-sufficient enough to aid the tribe when called upon?
Remembering all this, I feel I am ready for the questions, and I realize I also have a sense of pride, as I am honored and ready to provide some conceptual insight into this powerful, enriching, unique and culturally denoted art of Witch and Shaman. The Völva and seiðkona.
I would formally like to thank all of the 21st Century Heathen pioneers with this post, the writers and the performers; those who have (and are) paved the way of re-discovering and re-membering much of the-all-most-forgotten-tradition of Heathen Mysticism. Everyone’s penned journeys and the Heathen communities shared sacred collective of re-claiming work over the past 70 or so years, has created many useful off-spurs for the adventurous traveler on the heathen Asatru path to locate. There are too many of these trailblazers to list, but thank you one and all, for writing down, recording or videotaping your odyssey and what you found! ~I especially wish to thank those who I am allowed to call friend and kindred, and who have taught me much!
Without those teachers and mentors who collected, memorized, and shared their collective body of work and their shared kennings of Urd; (massive body of work and growing!) I can safely say I would not be as connected to my Wyrd and my Oorlog as I am now, nor would I be as versed in galðr, the runes, or have such a deep understanding of the obscure meanings of the lore. I have much gratitude that the world is quite small and accessible in my lifetime this trip around; and that good mentors are still out there! It is just amazing this obscure path is roaring to life once again.
How fortunate we can now view a different perspective of another Volva or seiðkona and study their recorded work; thereby giving new seekers varying perspectives on similar concepts when explaining our own. ~Even if the perspectives of others might seem mal-aligned with our own; we are evolved enough that we all can agree to disagree at times! Diversity is what gives all magic’s spice and vitality. Looking back, I smile at the journey of how I got to this place, and I hail all the many beautiful and fearsome Volva’s/Seiðkona’s I have enjoyed meeting or working with along the way. Thank you for inviting strangers to your hof, your hörgr, and your sacred places in the wilderness.
Share on when you are able; so all who dare to know more might find a thread that leads to a large and magnificent tapestry.
May the gods smile upon our endeavors and may the Norn’s grant us few knots in our weaving.
~Ivy C Mulligan