A Seidhr Article in Russian: Two Translations
[Main Index] [About Jordsvin] [Asatru Information] [Young Heathens Page] [Fun Stuff] [Asatru Events] [Norse Links]
1. From: OLKindred@yahoo.com (Odhahof-Lokabrenna Kindred)
Galina's Translation: Seidhr
It is possible to boldly assert that shamanism is one of the most ancient forms of spiritual practice throughout history. Evidence of this may be found in cave paintings of the Paleolithic age. Shamanism existed everywhere that humanity did, moreover its techniques and symbols are amazingly similar, even in such distant places as Siberia and Tierra del Fuego. This wide acceptance indicates that Homo - sapiens began utilizing shamanic techniques at a very early stage of development, prior to its separation into distinct cultures and ancient history provides extensive evidence of shamanic practices throughout the pre-Christian cultures of Northern Europe.
Thorough analysis of Northern and Celtic sources confirms that this universality. Many of the magical feats, trance and astral work associated with the druids are greatly reminiscent of shamanic methodology. Icelandic sagas are rich in reference to magic of all forms, including trance work, weather working, prophecy and shapeshifting. Some of the Scandinavian practices were, quite possibly borrowed from the Finns but the canon of Celtic and even Greek legends supports the hypothesis of an “indigenous” Indo-European shamanism.
This discussion deals with the practices called Seidhr (from the Icelandic). Linguistically, seidhr comes from a word indicating “to speak” or “to sing”. This term is related to the French “séance”, to the Latin “sedere,” to the old-English “sittan” and is part of a large word group based originally on the Indo-European root word “sed-.” Thus, seidhr literally indicates some type of intercourse with the spirit realm
Seidhr may contain two different forms of magical practices, including prophecy and divination during trance. Sometimes the word “seidhrmadhur” is used for men who practice seidhr, “seidhrkona” for women (in the anglo-saxon: wicca or femn. Wicce). Apparently, in early history both men and women practiced seidhr. Noted male practitioners of seidhr include Ragnvald of Rettilbeini (son of King Harold, who was burned together with other seidhr practitioners by Erik
Krovavaya Sekira), and Yeyvindr of Kelda who was drowned by King Olaf. However, according to the sagas, the majority of seidhr practitioners were women.
The magic of seidhr may also include galdr (translation of this sentence uncertain). There are no set formulas in seidhr rites, but inevitably the magician’s consciousness journeys to other worlds, worlds inaccessible under normal circumstances. The goal is generally the acquisition of knowledge. Practitioners of this form of magic frequently use natural substances such as stones, herbs, furs and bones (translated literally as “materials of animal origin). It is said, that Freya, one of the Vanir governs the mysteries of Seidhr and that She taught Odin how to work this type of magic. However, He combined it with the secrets of galdr.
Freya is the patroness of love, therefore seidhr is sometimes connected with the practice of sex magic. There is no doubt that this served as yet another reason to brand seidhr a “shameful occupation,” as this was during the Middle Ages. And magic and galdr quite frequently merged with the new, Christian practices (for example, there exist tables for Christian exorcism, written down in runic script), however seidhr was alien to Christianity. This is why so little is know about the tradition of seidhr.
Traditional seidhr included:
In order to practice seidhr effectively, it is necessary to achieve a certain change of consciousness. Many varied means were used to achieve this: sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, the occasional use of narcotic substances and even self-torture in combination with ritual chanting and dancing. After entering the state trance, the vitki may contact the various mythological (trans. Note: this particular word is verbatim) Deities, or approach the tree of Yggdrasil. Among the roots and branches of the world tree, the vitki may appear in this world in
a different form: as the soul-double, a “fetch” and this occurs during ecstatic rituals.
The following fragment from “Njal’s Saga” where the adoption of Christianity by Iceland is described, may server as an example of reaching trance via sleep deprivation.
“Torgeyr (this is the transliterated spelling) was heathen. He lay an entire day and night, his head covered so that no one could speak with him. The following day, the people went to the “seat of law” (literal translation). Torgeyr demanded silence and spoke…”
Further on, Torgeyr creates a common law for Iceland, both for the Christians and the Heathens by whose
methods he discerned it. And although in the saga it is not indicated that Torgeyr had practiced any specific rites or rituals, it can be assumed that the enlightenment he achieved was the result of seidhr.
However, the most detailed description of a Seidhr rite may be found in: “The Saga of Erik the Red.”
http://www.seika.org/hearth/ (Galina's group)
2. Trans. Ken Lymer.
Safely it is possible to assert, that shamanism is the most ancient kind of the spiritual practice ever used by people. The evidence of it can be found in cave figures of the Paleolithic epoch. Shamanism existed (and exists) everywhere where people lived, and its engineering and symbolics are surprisingly similar even in places so removed from each other as Siberia and Tierra del Fuego. Such wide circulation assumes, that homo sapiens began to use shamanism at a
very early stage of development, before division into various cultures, and the ancient and extensive history in turn allows to assume, that the evidence of shamanic practice can be found as well in pre-christian culture of Northern Europe.
The careful analysis of Northern and Celtic sources confirms, that it is valid. Many divinatory and the magical acts are attributed both to druids, and Vikings or velvas(?) very much remind us of shamanic methods. The Icelandic sagas are rich and mention all kinds of magic: switching ??????? travel, weather calling, treatment, prophecy and the change of forms. Some of the Scandinavian methods were probably borrowed from the Finns, but the set in Celtic and even the Greek legends supports a hypothesis about "native" Indo-European shamanism.
The practice about which there is speech, refers to Seidh (in Icelandic - seidhr), is from the word, meaning "speech" or "singing". This term is related to French seance, latin sedere, Old English sittan, and the big group of words based on the Indo-European root of *sed-. Seidhr, thus, in a literal translation means a "session" for dialogue with spirits.
Seid employs various kinds of magic practice, including the act of prediction or prophecy during a trance. Sometimes for a man practising seid one applies the term seidhmadhr, for a woman seidhkona. However the most used name for the male practice was vitki (in Anglo-Saxon wicca or [wive(?)] wicce). In an earlier period, seid was apparently both a male's and female's occupation. Men engaged in seid are known: Ragnvald Rettilbeini (the son of King Haralda Red-haired which was burnt together with other people engaged in seid by Eric Bloody Sekira), and Eyvindr Kelda which was sunk by King Olafom. However the majority practising seid in sagas are women.
Seit magic consider(examine) as ???????? galdor(?). In seit rituals there are no precise formulas, but there is a travel of consciousness of the magician to other worlds - inaccessible to usual travel - and measurements with the purpose of knowledge new. In this kind of magic quite often apply natural substances, such as a stone, herbs or any materials of an animal origin. We are told that Freiya, one of Vans?, owned the secrets of Seit and taught Odin this art. Odin in exchange ordained her in the secrets of galdor(?).
Freiya patronises love, therefore seit is sometimes connectted with magical sexual practices. Undoubtedly, it has served on one occasion to consider seit as a "shameful employment occupation" in the Middle Ages. And if magic galdor(?) frequently merged with new christian views (for example, there is a tablet with christian exorcism, written down in runes), seit was alien to christianity. That is why there is little known about seit tradition.
Traditional seit includes:
To start the act of seit it is necessary obtain the changed condition of consciousness. For this purpose various means were used: abstention from dream, fasting, sensory overload, sometimes narcotic substances and even self-torture in a combination with ritual lyric-poetry and dances. ???? in a condition of a trance, coils starts to see mythological landscapes - such, as the world tree Iggdrasil. Among the roots and branches of the World Tree coils can search for the ally in the other world - the spirit - double fetcha(?) as it occurs during ritual ???????.
As example of achievement of a trance by abstention from dream can be found in the fragment "Sagas about Nyal", where acceptance of christianity by Iceland is described:
"... Torgeir was a pagan. Torgeir had lain all day and night, having covered his head with a raincoat so nobody could start talking with him. Next day people has gone to the Rock of the Law. Torgeir demanded silence and has told ...".
Further Torgeir states the common law for Iceland - both for christians and for pagans - which comprehension has come to him. And though in the saga it is not spoken, that Torgeir was engaged in any rituals or ceremonies, it is possible to assume, that the knowledge of the law has come to him as enlightenment caused by seit. However the seid ceremony described most in detail is in "the Saga of Erik Red".
last modified 07/20/2003