Traditions of the North Witch: The Völva

In ancient Scandinavia and Germania, there was a class of priestesses or seeresses whose history and lore are of great interest. These seeresses, or völvas/vǫlvas, were a class of women all their own. Responsible for reading omens, prophesying, and divination on behalf of their tribesmen, these women were clearly the conduit between Midgard and the Beyond.

Völvas must surely have looked to the Ancestors’ spirits, as well as spirits that resided in the land and sea. These women were thought to be the mortal divinity of Freyja, as it is said Freyja was the goddess who introduced the art of Seiðr–that is, the practice of seeing into the future, the Unknown, and even the world of the dead, as much wisdom is gained from Spirit conversation.

These women were held in very high esteem, respected as a divinity by all…including men of all ranks. This seems to be so because the culture and religious practices of the Vikings and Germanic tribes attributed all women as having been in some way endowed with this power. Those that chose this path in life because of their strong sight became married to their staves, the working wand of the wild witch.

Völvas who were requested to divine on behalf of the people would do so sometimes publicly, as all were connected to Fate, and would sometimes be called to the home to perform a ceremony. It seems clear that these women acted as Shamans to their communities. They would be imparted with spell-song, to help aid their trance-states so the information from the worlds beyond would be better transmitted.

Not unlike Shamans of many other tribes, völvas would commune with plant and animal spirits as well as those that dwell within the land and hearth and home. For this reason, many were called upon as healers for spirit and body, too.

The Seiðr-craft was so revered and respected (because of its origins from Freyja, no doubt) it is said that Freyja was the one to impart this knowledge to Odin himself. The power of the Feminine Divine, indeed.

The lesson one can take from the völva and other women who are practitioners of this ancient tradition is one of self-discipline and spiritual development. The sight must be practiced, brought into harmony with all of the Self. Such practice seeks to completely eradicate the Ego’s stirring presence of self-doubt, opening the channels for communication between all divine beings, both of Earth and those who dwell beyond and below.

Image courtesy of GermanMythology.com 

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