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Trolld6 mr in Early Medieual Scandinayia

Catharina Raudvere










The aim of the present survey is to give some glimpses of the cultural and social context in early rnedieval Scandinavia that produced a system o{' beliefs and rituals linked to the assurned special capabilities and extraordinary knowledge of certain persons. In this system, reference to witchcraft/ trolld|mr was considered a sensible and acceptable truth. The world of the peoples of Scandinavia was geographically on Europe'.s periphery, Llltima Thule as Roman writers regarded it. However, cultr-rrally it was not an archaic isolated society as older, more ronlantic, scholarship enrphasized (Burke 1992a:79). Recent writings on the Norse rvorld stress the continental influences nlore and more (DuBois 1999).Through travelling and trade, groups in the Norse communities were in regular contact with the Continent, as well as other parts of the world. Both nraterial culture and social structures show early influences from Europe. The period covered by this study is to a large extent parallel to the process of Christianization, approxirnately 800-1300 cr,, which involved significant changes at all levels ofScandinavian society.The greater part ofthe sources relevant to this study were written during the last of these centuries by Christians. Labelling the time covered as either pre-Christian or Christian


a dichotonry that does not take into account that


Christianization was

a lor-rs process, or the fact that a large extent products of a nrixed culture.

what the texts reveal

Irnagcs of the Past

In this essay almost exclusive use is made of written Old Norse sources from the Scandinavian Middle Ages, mainly of Iceiandic and Norwegian
This study was made possible by generous support from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation- I anr also gratefr.ri for the kind hospitality shown rne durine the :rcaderrric yelr when this c'ssrry wls written by the members of the Sclnclinaviuu I)cprrtnrcrrt, Univer^sity of (lllift>rrria, llcrkelcy, especi:rlly Professor .fohn Lindow. Scvcr';rl strrtlics witlr rclcv;rrrt'c firr tlrc prcscr)t work huve bccn plrblishcd

lficr this css:ry r.v:rs firrislrc,l.

As possiblc rt'fi'r't'rrt'cs to thosc sturiics

h:rvc lrt'crr irrtcgr:rtt'tl tlrrrurg tlrt' prool rc.rtlrrr11.


Witchuaft and lulagic in Europe:Tlrc Middle Agcs

Tiolld6rnr in Early Medicual



origin.Forcomparativereasotlssollletextsinotherlanguagest'villbedhtexts were pro..,Jr.d.Wi,h the exception of runic inscriptions no written of christianicy, althoueh, drrced in ScandiDavia before the il-rtroduction and the Irish, the Scandinavia,s used their .ffi*,i,r, the Anglo_Saxons with a long ,=rrZ.ul., extensiv-ely. The texts rvrittetr in Old Norse deai cenp..i"a tinre, but were principally conrposed during the thirteenth culoral "f tury.Their relatio, ,o-rt-," f'""iot"'- ""ito the co,temporary tureislcomplicatednr:rtter.Thoughfornrandstyleindicateabackgroundthe in oral rransnission, radical changes lllust have taken place during transcription seems unreaiistic. ;;;;, of writing. To suppose a vlerbatimntythological narr.atives, provide ,"gm and-the Tlwo rra.;or text groups, ,h". oi the Oid Norse world r-rs with the basic ,rr",.t1"1 for-an understanding Lindow 1985; and its belief systems (Andersson 1961; Clover 1985;
Clunnies Ross 1994, 1998)' discussi,g ifr. n.t, grorl', oitexts is the varior'rs kinds of sagas'Withoutbe said that into distinctive subgroups' it can the classifrcation of the sagas sasas were ,ir.y.""t,i,uted the Ncxse forrn of history writing'-Nlost anonymous by ,u.i,,.rr dorn'n in the thirteenth century and are generally t""t' f'om the tirrre of the settlers'

'lcelandic social nremory neederl to develop genres which preserved the cornplexity of their [the Icelanders'] social topography' (1992: 163f.). To the authors of the thirteenth century the era of color.rization u,as the background against which social and spatial mobility were understood. Places had their specifrc history and rvere related in the narratives to special persons. Social borders between fbmilies were established and maintained through discussions about claims to larrd and places were named after irnportant persons and consequential events. Every saga text is part of these cor.rflicts and the histories of the families and their feuds are all told from highly subjective angles.The sagas were a rvay of explaining why certain conflicts had arisen, i,vho took part in then.l, who was claiming authoriry over what area and, not least, how loyalties and ailiances rvere broken.'The logic of feud, in effect, constituted a narrative form in itself, which could underpin texts several pages long', write
Ferrtress and Wickharn (1992: 167). An accusatiolr of trolld6mr was in this perspective a useful category of either claiming a certain authoriry or explaining r.r,hy evil thines had happened. With its background in classical antiqurry the Chtrrch inherited a link to divination, astrololJy and healing rituals. But these cerenronies were placed in a new context. Belief in witchcraft was therefore not necessarily contradictory to Christian dogma. As Valerie Fiint points out, 'early nredieval Europe rvas rernark:rbly well suppled with inflr-rential and respected harioli, auspices, sortilegii and incantaton-s'(1991:6()).lt is necessary from this perspective to conlnrent on the impact of conversion and the process of Christianization, r,vith its many cultural, political and social implications. Despite significant changes, continuity can be observed in areas where we might at first not expect to find it: in the religious and moral universe. Most conceptions of trolld6mr seem at first sight totally contradictory to central Christian beliefs. lf those destructive deeds were to be associated with anything in the sphere of the Church it had to be the devil himself. But in a Christian perspective the per{brmances of cunning people were certainly

.;,h";r. They recalf i,-,'po"""

c<rlonization of Iceland

(tle ninth-century landninl'and continue in sotne give any ,.",, .rp until the *rite,'s own tirne' Altirough it is impossibic to Iceland the population of cxxct demographic statistics, it can be notedihat originated fronr Norwiy and other parts of i, the Middle Ag.r';;i;l; the sagas are chronoScrncli*avia, rrrd ilro fro,,, tl"r. B-ritish Isles. Formally insertions of skaldic poetry lvith its rnetaphoric Iosical prose texts with appear have historical i,,;t .,;g'. Mostly th. f .rso.,r, places and events that of religious and rclevance and the ,.'"i, .tro iive probabie indicatiorls
nrrlral concePts.

.t.Ilcfocusofrnanysagasispower.rndpowerrelations..'lnlnanySenses conflicts.The whole motitSesc rerts were a ,rrJd. of ..riiulrting political ir-r a vltion for establishing an old Norsc written literatlrre originated forhistory was p.,li.,a rvhcn a clistinJt lcelandic identitv rvith a speciiic i,vorved in harsh pohtical_conflicts, cspci,.,.,l,rte..r. The Iceranders were .freestittc' the Icelarrdic ciallv rvith Norw:ry ancl l)enrllark, and in 1262-4 king and latcr p..iifr"a. lcelancl canle under the rule of the Nor-wegian scveral discourscs of' trndcr thc l)lnish crown. Therelore the tcxts reveal individual identity' After tlrc rrrrtioDal iclcDtity elo,rg with thosc of locJ atld .l..iv .",,f",-..,.,.,t tl.r" I.,rd ,u.. princip,rllv clivicled bctrveett irlclepentlcrlt ccl)ttlry wlls tirr rlticfirrirrs, cvcrr thtxrgh thc tcrrdcrrcy irl'tlrc tlrirtccrlth l:rtlclst':tPc s.'rc tr'w flrrrilies t,, tl,rrrritr,rtc tlrc p,.,lrtittll:rttil soc'iltl sceltc'I'llc s;rgrts,,l,,r,'ly tottttt't'tt'tl to f:rrrrily ltistory.fltrrcs is rr si1{rrilit.:rpt cl)tity ip tlrc .rlt ,ttl:llvsis ol- ltow Ict'l:rlltlit' l;t.rr( ,rrr,l ( llrils wi, k1,,,,,, lr.,v,' r",r,l,' :ttttl tltt'y rvl'itt': rrrt'tttot it':' w('l(' str(l( (tlrt'tl lly 1',t't'1',r'r1'll\"ttttl 1"t'trt"llt'L"tt's



seen as a way clf gaining victory over enernies, or looking into the or assisting women in childbirth. 'Yet, the sagas were copied in

rrlonasteries and all tl're eccounts of witchcraft we have lvitnessed would hardly have survivecl had those who copied the Fanrily Sagas subscribed to a world-view very nruch opposed to heathen custonts' (Pllsson 1991:165). Practices very sinril;rr to tl-re Old Norse ores :rre recorded much later as folk beliefs and fulk nrcciicinc. It seenrs rs if the Relbrrrution in the sixteenth

ccntury was



inrportunt to Scrrndinavian spiritual life


the estab-

lishrnerrt of (llrristi;rrrity in thc carly Mirltllc Agcs. Still, certain thenres can bc obscrvctl irr Populrrr rt'ligiorrs tlist'oursc ()vcl' tl)e c'r'rtturics. J'lrc sr't'ontl qrotrP ol-lt'xts rt'lt'r,.rrrt to tlrir strrrlv t'<lrrc'cnl lnytlr()logv, rrrrrl ;rrt' rrrrrtlr lt'ss lrotrr,,LIt'nt',,tts irr lirlrrr tlt,rrr tltt' srtg,ts.'l'ltt' llrirrciPll

78 sorlrces

Witchcraft and Magic in Europe:The Middle Ages

Trolldtirnr in Early Llcdieual



for knowledge of old Norse mythological narratives are the two 1985; so called ErJdas: the Poetic Edila and Snorrit ptose Edtla (Harris

1998)'The Lir.rdow 1985; Fauikes 1987;Hallberg 1993;Clunies Ross 199'l' the etynroi^nte Edda is of clisptrtable origin; sonle colnmentators claim are supposed to togical irrterpretatioi, of 'g."at-g1a1d1ot!e.1' (i'e' the texts clairn that. edda l-Ileans L-r.'tt-re sorrr.. of old rviscl"our and 1o.") rvhile others distribute' i,rspi.ation or writing (from the Latin edo,'to express in public'

attempt to write a handbook fbr poets, is a svstenratic snrvey of the Old Norse nrythology.Yet the motivation for the cornpilation was not based in religious sentirnents. h-r order to preserve O1d Norse poetics in style and content, especially the elaborate use of rnetaphors, he realized the need to explaiu the old nrythology and offer future poets as rnany details as possible. It is obvious that Snorri is nraking use of knor'vn and unknown earlier texts together, as he generously quotes songs almost

Both t""t coll..iiors w,ere rvritte, down in the middle of the thir,..r,,h centlrry and both are pxrt of the same ideological project to estabfor lish Icelandic cultural ,l.r,oro,',,y' Knowledge of rnythology was-c-ruciai of these texts the possibility of consrructing rnetaphors.The literary aspects of ,rrr,r, b. stressed from the b.girr-rirg to avoid any nristrnderstanding dogrnas' In theDr as religious documents or argulllents against christiart the myths rclarion ro the rhemes of the presen-t stucly it catl be noted that in the realr tell irr an ahistorical perspecti;e how trollddmr had been used of the gods since the dar"'lr of time' 'l-he Pocllr Ertrla in its standard eclitions consists of twenty-nine individCodex rr:rl poet]]s written dowu anonyrrlously' The rna;or manu-script' after being lost 1643 11,,*ii,r, was lrrore or less accicle.tally rediscovered in for centuries.The ir-rdividual texts are well arranged by ,,r.i lo.g,r,r.n each other thc rtredieval editor rvho apparently saw the poelDs as linked to themes in the irr I specific succession. f|r. ro"gi deal with mythological of hisrc:rlti of the gods as well ,, po.rrl abolrt heroes acting in the daw, of preserved ,,)rf ffr. p,).",1. nrythological texts are unique irr the corpr'rs (icrrrranic literature, whilie the latter group correspond to Continental prrctic traditions as expressed i, Dos lliib.eltrngenlied tnd Beourl;.TheEddic to revertl of the characteristics of an i.,.,",.,,, ure uenerally conside.ed is an ,,l,le. or.1 lit.r..y forrn.The conlplex use of nrythological metaphors content' nrythological irrriicuti<>n of the aucliencc's Jeneml awarelless of the .M:r,y rexts refer to alleged ritual, ancl these references have precipif,agan -their trustworthiness anc] meani,g', John t.tccl a vigorous deba[ on it [.irrtl.rv *iir", (1993). Given the creative dyna,rics of oral trrlnsnrission, poetry; instead' it is irrrpossible to'clainr any age or Lltform lor the Eddic (Fi,rlega, 1992)' *,,u..,ro,r, for,rany individlal ,",odls of understa,ding i,, p.rlr.p, the nrost important lay of the coilection' l/qluspi' trolldt5rur plays phases of the :rrr itttp.rtrttt part, ., ii i, usecl aud abused in the differe,t lristory t>f thc urriverse. ancl hisSrrrrrri Srurlusorr (c.117()-1 241) was a well-knorvn politician farllily rrnd rclat()ri:rrr in his tirtre, lx>rn rr'l power ancl wealth. Through I)et'rtc - or rivt.s lrt.w.s clccl,ly i,volvcci i. p.liticll attcl <>tlrer corlflicts. irrvolvctttcttt Stttlrr-i ctrltivlrtctl ltrttitltt'trt'trt l)('l-l):ll)s lrcc,rus.i oi- tltis ('()\'t'r 't v'lr icry trf'tlifltrcrlt itttt't-t'sts. I lts t otttPllr;rtivcly ('\t('l'lslvc \vt'itirrgs Nolst' lristot'y. Sttorri's lili't"r p:rlt ot- lris tlrortglr

identical u,ith the texts of the Poetic Edda.Witbout the systenlatic and pedagogical structure of Snorri's sLrrvey it wor:ld be diffictrlt for a nrodern reader to understand the many metaphors ancl hints about myths in the Poelic Edda. Snorri's choice of forur is both traditional and innovarivc

for the tinre.The oihis Edda that takes the shape of a conrpetition about wisdom is a fornr frequently used in Old Norse literatr"rre when it conres to draw up comprehensive overviews. Snorri gives the inrpression that he was a le:rrned man in terms of his time. Marearet Clunies Ross characterizes his strategy in forrnulating the pagan world view as inspired by Continental ideals of style. The mythic narratives of the Edda have, she writes, 'Aristotelian fbrrn, with well-defined beginnings, rniddles and ends, they are extended narr:rtives and they deal in the nrain with myths of gods and giants on the horizontal plane' (1991 231). The social setting of the Old Norse nwthoiogical narratives has a clanlike character and the gods are represented as living under fanrily-like patriarchal conditiorrs. Many texts reflect an ideology based on warrior ideals
frorn the npper part of a sociery rvith a distinct social hierarchy. Both poetry and history were created for an audience in the upper parts of society and were perfornrecl by a skillec'i poet. The cluestion of representation nrust therefore be at the core when trying to e-\tract supposed nreaning tronr them. Whose myths and whose history are we reading? To a large extent they are echoes fronr the halls of the chieftains. Nevertheless, pictorial representations and archaeological artefacts fronr several centuries and from vast geolJraphicll areas give clear indications that the stories, the characters and the symbols were known to a rvidc range of conrnrtrnities all over the
Scandinavian peninsr:la.

Too often Old Norse nlythology has been presented as a reflection of static and hor.noserreous conditions rather than as part of dynanric processes and changes in r-rorthenr Europe. The same stories must have been given highly ciifftrent nreanings in different tirnes in different areas among diflerent socill groups - and presumably also by nren and wonlen.

ing the dangers of giving l petrificd irrrrrqc of ()ld Norse s()cietv anc'l its conccpti()l)s (1<)()2t:2). lltrt witlt sottrr'cs rls sc:lr('('rrs rhc ()ld Norsc orres it is ficcltrcrrtll'lrrrrtl to rrrrrint.rirr.rrr,urirrr;rtetl irrruq('tlr:rt givr's tlre frrll fluvotrr
of t'orrrplt'xity.

'Change is structurecl, rrrcl structurcs cirange', rvritr's l)etcr Brrrke, indicat-




Witchcrdft and Magic in Europe:The Middle Ages Witchcraft or Trolld6mr?

Tiolld6mr in Early Medieual



There are difficulties with any attempt to formulate a definition of witchcraft as a universal category. The Old Norse concept of trolld6mr and related terminology was frequently used and given in specific Scandinavian contexts. In order to avoid terms like 'witch', 'witchcraft',
'rnagic', etc., as far as possible, as they are loaded with r-niscellaneous nLeanirrgs frorn totally different contexts (tsurke 1992a:87f.), the emic terminology: trollddmr,seidr,galdr,at spi etc. is used and there is no need to establish I taxononric structure that does not exist in the sources. Precise classifications
are inrpossible to formulate since the texts give contradictory statenlents not because the Norsemen had confused opinions, but because the concepts of trolld6mr and related ideas were used for explanations in so many

very different areas of life. The empiricai material of the present study is divided into three sections starting with the belief system and conceptual fiarrrework, following on with the ritual implications of trolld6mr, and ending with some examples of how the conceptions and rituals were dealt with in the legal system. The earliest Christian laws deal to some extent with pagan beliefs and practices in stating penalties for those who kept up the old sacrifices or did not Ibl1ow the comrnandments of the new relision. Penalties for practising trolld6mr are also mentioned in this Christian context and there are interesting parallels with some of the accounts in the srrgas where cunning people are punished. There are certain analytical irdvantages to using a broad terrn like trolld<|mr, when trying to avoid hortrogeneous categories that contradict the emic use. In what follows a picture of trolldimr based on readings of Old Norse texts is presel.rted, in which emphasis is put on the idiosyncracies and the rnultiple use of terminology.A basic distinction is made in the disposition of this study between (-()ntexts where trolldtlrnr is used for rnalevolent deeds and other situations where it is connected to divination rituals supposed positive effects. lrr other words, there is a spectrunl in the Old Norse construction of tntlldtimr ranging from local political strategies to individual peasants' cot-lce rrrs about the conting year. It is the context of the narrative that deterruines whether ;i deed was to be considered as nralevolent or beneficial. 'I'he act or words were only a method. The distinction is definitely not luc:ult as any indication of a dichotonry between so callecl black and whitc
rungii:. As with'witchcraft in general', the history of trolldtimr is sometitrtcs rc1.r.' rcscrrtcrl us wotttett'.s histttry irt the sense that it is a topic tttorc or lcss t.xt lrrsivcly rclltctl to w()lnell ls victirrts rncl ruen es ;rcctlscrs. ()rrc of rtrltrry pxrIrlcrrlrtit' ils])ccts ot'srrc'lr urr opiltiott is tlr:rt it flxcs tltc t-ottccptiotts ol trolldritttr irr tlrt'rt';rlru of'soti:tl lt'l:ttiotts, lt';tvitttl ottt its religiorrs:ttttl itlcrr

social ruernrrry'

below', since accusations were to sonle extent part of elite politics (cf. Sharpe 1992). Tiolld|mr is, in rnany popular .rrryr, emphasizecl as some_ thing'underground' and as hidden ro... o.r the contrary, mythology and popular beliefs were used in literary motifs to express norms, ideas and val_ ues,-not necessarily in exact reproductions but as metaphors and symbols. In this sense, literature nrirrors sociery. Sagas formulated coliective social melnory (connerto, 1989; Burke 1992a; Hastrup 1992a).The Icelanders of the thirteenth century interpreted their conte,rporary situation through the art of telling history.James Fentress and chrisVickiam write in their essay 'Medieval ,remo.ries':'whatever they did with the past, they were writing in - and ususally for - worlds thar had their own ideas about the nature of the usabie past, the current, functionally relevant past, and the collectively remembered past' (1992: 1 46). The rr-rral conditions are always present in the texts and most social interaction occured within the local cornmunity. Although it was a small scale society rhere were importanr and emphasized sJcial differences: between free men who owned land,, benclv, ancl slaves, between chieftains and their subjects, between the generations, and between men and wornen. To this can be added a certain e,rphasis in some texts on ethnic difference. The social background to th._ tnild6nrr stories is still very much that of a pioneer sociery. The times of settlemerts and the formation of liaisons between the fanrilies are apparently living traditio,s in the sagas.As in the case of the ,rythological narratives, I think it reasonable to assume that there were several other r.vays of telling history than those variants preserved in written texts today. 'The rnedieval world was as heterogeneous as tl-rat of toclly, or incleecl nlore so, ar.rcl it wor,rld be irnproper to attenlpt to scrre*rlizc t.o preciscly abotrt :lry .spcct of it, leasiof. all its

1990, 1993). Men were apparently equally invorved (Dillmann 19g6, 1992; Adtalsteinsson 1994,1996).The saga iuthors were obviously making use of gender politics in an attempt to construct as appealirrg , *o.y as possible (clover 1986a, 19u8, 1993), a,d social differences ai wen r, ,g. important when hierarchies were constructed. The result in the saga -... texts is rn_triguing interplays between sex/gender and power games. Neither can trolld1mr accounts be used to fo.-.rlr*te a ,history from

trolldimr is a complicated matter for severar reasons. Both men and women were thought to be involved in troild|mr practices, although wornen did take part more activeiy in trolld6mr narratives than is ..rrroir".y elsewhere in old Norse literature. women's frequent appearance in this arena does not mean that we can pinpoint a specific .rrJ"t. wonrent culture with a more inti,rate connection with trolld\mr,as ias been stressed (Kress

ntrcss .rrrcl Wicklrrrr



ls. 'l lrc rcl.rtitllt lrt'llv<'t'tt s''x/t',t'ltrlt'r- :ttttl

t tttlt

t'lltitltts ol

. IIr tlrc llr()ccss tll'tlt'tttottiz;ttiort tlrr'oltl LIorls;rrrt'tirrrt's:rtluptcd t. tltt' collt'r'tivt. ot'tlt'rrrorrs.'l'lrt'y rv,.n. li.orrr rrror.c t.listirrt.t

19()2: 172i.


Ages Witchcraft and Magic in Europe:The Middlc

charactersintheoldNorsemythologicalnarrativestotrrembersofa devils. From hter r.nedieval texts nrtrch more diffuse gr;; oi a.,r-", and such themes pl'ytd-.'. crucial part in and Church prir-rtir-rg' *" krro* th"t Church did not deny the the didactic anrbitiotrs Jf-it" tttgo"'en' The God was greater' .l*irr.rr.. of such creatures, but the power-9f collection of teits.This is not o'ly The old Norse ."r.f*'i, .-r,,riqrr. becauseofitsrnagnitt'dt,bt'talsobecauseofitsvarietyinformandconltttttta to in the epics and other kinds of prose terrt. Magical deeds ^" provid^e-lllany suggestions of text fron outside St"ld"""i', but do not comparisons in rela-


The Concept of Trolld5mr: Mentalities and



i I

rctua\ perfornlecl ,i*"it-if" only really nreaningful rvith literature fi'om can be niade tiorr to the conceptions of trollrliwr that Old High Germti t",1 Anglo-Saxon other parts of nt.op. .tt t"'th the a nlythology alld religiots concepspells. To a large exlent they indicate. of Jo.i^l .o.,t.xt. As stressed tiorrs o[ similar kincls, bur lack descriptions but closely related to the rrolldtimr was ;;; '" inclependent entity' socill operations of a local comrnunity'

1'hepresentr,rayi'-"tt'ctttredirrthreenlajorsections'Thefirstdeals Basic concepts such as witlr the belief system th" "]t'o''-' d'ed troUttinn' The second section on Ai.i, ,fr. frr-^r, ,orl ,r.d krro*l.dg" are cliscussed'

between nrythological narrapmctice and perform"rr.. In"t ", a listinction involved i'r trolld;mr rituals, anc'l saga tivcs where varrous g;;;;.. told to be question.whether nlythotexts relirting to the behaviour of htrnrans'The Nevertheless'

Iosical strLrcttrre i, p;;;;"i|p';tl fot tt" of the study concerns legal texts the sinrilarities are rpf"tt'li'fne last part first oi1.rr,r.. as it i, crescribed rn the saga texts'The




.rrci t5e ;rdrnirristratiii authorities whereas the latter rcxr !{roLlp ir.*pli.itly irrJ ""i.. of christian hint it older legal proceclures'

rcl;rtccl tt> the protectiorr of fanrily interests, rvlrich is also a signifrc.rnt f-ealrrrc of the context of trclldrimr. No ritr.ral or perforrnance is necded; the rrrotlrer',s action is exclusively oral, but u.ith :r strong conncction to comPlt'x conceptions oi fate. Through her fbresight the clinrax of thc s;rg.r is .rrrticipltecl ancl her urger)r reqrrcst thereby corrsritutes a vital part oithe rr:rlmtivc structure. Her rvords are like a sudden chilly breeze indicating tlr.rt bad things will beconre worse. Hc.rwever, thc'rvarning turns out to be litritlcss, sirrce clrettir'.s erernies will prove to be stronger; and not only are rlrt'r'urore capable,but this is the way destinv hacl predicted thiru-rs ro be. lly choosirrg this text as the lirst exanrple of Scandinavian trolid|nrr c<>nr t'pfi6r115 it can. be denronstratecl that thesc' ideas are I1ot necessarily prert'tttccl fi-arnecl by r,'ery sPectacular events. As .nve shall see titrther oir,^this l,.rrticular saga also carries sorne highly drlrnatic narratives of perfbrnted rrr,rlcvolence, lrut, generalh', artless st:ttcllrents are as inrportant in ixpressing Irrrrrhnrental c()ltccptions lnd wclrlcl views. 'l'rolldimr ancl rrssocirrtecl e onceptiol)s were t() il qreet extcnr part of social ( \'errts atrcl ttrttst thcrcfirrc bc plrrc't'rl irr tlrcir spccific ctrltural lontcxts. No rrolld<inrr story is tirrrrrti irr ()ltl Norst' litt'nrttrrc rvitlrotrt l blckgrourrd c>f , onHicts :rnrl rclutcil striltcsi('s. As rvill [rt' tliscrrsst'rl lrt'low, [rotli rhc pcrlrrt'ttr;trtccs rrrrrl tlrt'.ttttlsrttiotrs ,,tl'troll,ltirttt tlc.rlt s'itlr tl.rirrrirrrl tlrc riglit ttl 'It',rk irr ;ul irrrrlr()rit;rtivt' rrr,tlt'. Arrtlrolity,.rs tlist rrsst'tl ,rt lt'rrqllr [.,y il.r',.. I ttttoltt,,trtrl.l l,t'tttl(l('t\trrorl .tr'llrr','llt',I lrtrrrlrlrt'rl l,r, ., ,,,,'irr,,tttrtt.of'

'l'he follow'ing u'orc1s of advice are utterl'd b,v the r.rother of Grettir, an outlarv with urany enenries, as she is parting from her sons: 'Ile on your gtrrrd lgainst treachcry. You rvill not be killeci by weapons; I have ha<j str:urge. dreams. Be vary of sorcery: fer,v things are mightier than black rrrrrgic.'lThe -st:rteuient certainly gives us ln inirrge of hoil.conceptions of trolld6mr can be represented in old Norse literature.The scene occupies a vcrv linrited part of the saga text but, althoush far fronr beir.rE one of rlr. ru()re spectacular episodes, this quoration from one of the Icelindic linrily s; is a significant trttlld<inw narrative in its or,vn right. In this case, the saga tells, the sollrce of the old lvonran',s knorvledge is her clrearns. Thror-rgh tlrt'rrr shc'can foresee rnuch more tror.rble for Grettir in the ftrture, and evEn 1,r't'dict his cleatir. She uses the evcnts r>f the drcan'r to clarify and ar-ralyse tlrc incirlents of the daytirne. Foreseeing in Olcl Norse literature is closely


WitchuaJi and Mdgic tu Europc:Tlrc X'[iddle Agcs



Eorly Medieual



the risht speaker, the rieht speech and_delivery, the rrght staging and props, essay a,rd tii. right time ,nJ p1...' (Lincoln 1994:90).ln an intriguing 'Tte name of tire wircir' Gisii Pilsson has discussed the iruplicaentitleci tions of social dynamics of lcelandic society in the texts' ln the Faruily Sagas borh sorcery and the accusation of lvitchcraft tend to be described as powetful speech acts performed in particular contexts

by consciou, p".ro^ and foi particular purposes, not as rLlle-lJoverned activities. The accuse, arrd the accused are creative agctlts, not the iustruments of culture.Thus, sorcer1,, divination, arld gossip alld the accgsations rvhich tbliowed were closely related to the tlricro-politics of the early Cotnmonwealth. (Pllsson 1991: 16tt) Evidently both tr:rnsfornration and hybridity can be saicl to charrcterize the period of christianization in Scandinavia, and a rnentality into which tirlre' trollddntr fitted as an explanation Inust have been prevalent for a long

Despite bloodshed and violerlce, a couversion can also be a creative pfocess *,he.e new forms are constructed, totally dependent on the nleeting of cultnres: or to use Mary Lor-rise Prirtt's termilology, conversion can be a conract zone. Although her perspective is colonial travel writing, her approach to the interaction belween diverse culttlral systenls is illurlrinrrting when considerins the tinre of the saga u'ritcrs'

Old Norse studies have traditionally been donrinated by philoiogical end literary approaches. I}-rt the last ten or fifteen years have revealed arr increasing interest in the social context and cultural background of the ()1d Norse lvorld.With their anthropological approach to historical clocunrents scholars like Kirsten H:rstrup and Gisli Pilsson have influenced the preserrt vier,v of the Old Norse conceptions of trollddmr as clearly structurecl interactions betrvcell protalionists in .r social arena. lhree aspects of these social studies. in particular, can bc emphasized 'ur,hen applied to histcrrical r.naterials like those in the Old Norse trollddnw narratives. Mary Douglas uses the phrase'stratelly of re.;ection'rvhen she conrpares [-.uropean nredieval conceptions oi leprosy to conternporary Atiican rvitclrcratt beliefi (Dougias 1992). She thereby touches on the cornplicated tprestion of the nrlrginality of the perfbrrners. A rnlrginal position for these persons is in nrany crses rpprrent in the Olc'l Norse te-xts but cert:rinly not for all of them. As we shall see further o11, sonre persons related to ttolldtlmr activities could aiso be in a central position in the tield of social rrctivities. Rather than being rnarqinal in the first piace, a proccss of rnarsinalization of the perfbrnrers (or the strspected perforlners) t:rkes place in sorne of these texts. Victor Turnerls criticisnr of the l'ery nruch used distinction between u'itchcraft rnd sorcerl', which was appropriate fbr Evans-Pritcharcl's Zande
\tudies br,rt has rlot necessarilv prc'rvecl so lor other cultures is hiuhly reler':rrrt lor the present study (Evans-Pritchard 1937;Turner 1971).In his dis( ussl()n of ttrxononry versus dvnanric:s in witchcralt beliels Turner points ,,rrt:'[the clichotonryl is likely to sidetrack investigation fronr the study of ,rr'tual behaviour in a social field context to an obsession rvith the proper ;,iuconholing of beliefs and practices as either "r.vitchcraft" or "sorcery" ' (lt)7 1: 126). A classification of performallces as either good or bad per se ( ,u)not be nrade in the C)ld Norse m:lterial, as far as I can see.2 Attenrpts to t'rr:rblish categories like'white'and'black'magic fail to ir]tegrtte the social r trrteXt of r.he trolldririrr stories lnd the narrative construction olthe texts. I{irsten Hastrup has dealt with the correspondence between mythoiogi, ,rl und socirrl geography and raises questions about the relation between r,l.'o1og1.and ritual practice. In her studies on Icelanclic culture she has rrr.rirrt:rined a highlv contextualizecl perspective,:rnd at tl-re sanre she lreen pointing at continuities and an enrpfasis on long-tern.r cieveloprr('l)t.'There w:rs such a close flt betlveen the ancient Scandinavian cosnrolosy lnd the spatial and social realities of lceland th:rt each level of r,',rlitv relflirnrecl the others'(19tt1:66) . [-l.rstrup, ltronr :r prorrounced structrrr',rlist point of vicrv clelrly irrspircrl by I{ussian scholltrs like Meletinskij ,rrr,l ()trrcviclr, lr:rs (()r)tiuu()uslv siturrtcri thc discrrssion'"vithirr tlre fielcl of lrrrtori<':tl :u)tl)r()l)()l()g1'(l l.rstlrrP l()fi5, l()()O:r,[r, l()()2:t,b) .Wlrcrr rrrltlysirtu rlrr' ()ltl Norsc s'trt.ltl vt.'rv Il,rs( r'rrI s(l'('s\r's ,t lr.rsit tosntologitrrl t'orrHict

'Contact zone'is an attelllpt to irlvoke the spatial alld telllporel copresence of subjecrs previously separeted by geogrrphic and historical disjnnctures, and whose trajectorles now intersect' By using the term ,contact,, I airn to foregrttund the interactive, improvisational dimensions of colo.ial .rr.o.ri'tt"r, so easily ignored or stlppressed by diffusionist accounts oi colquest and domilation. A 'colltact' persPective tc-r ertrphasizes horv subjecti are constituted ip and by their relatrons
cach other. (1992:7)

solne parts of the old Norse r,vorld view rvere kept and some rejected in thc transformation into christian theology through a process of dernoniziition where anything conceived to be pagan was associrrted with the r{c'il, I copresence in Fratt's terminology. 'There has to be consenslts' 'Ihcrc has to be' an it.pputation of inrnrorality'. as Mary l)ougl:rs says rrlrotrt rhe techniques of rejection and control (1992: t35).The degrading of-the olcl religion as sllperstition in theological discourse r1lso tllrlls otlt ttt lrc crucill in the ipteiplay between contintiity '.rnd chanuc, and iri re lltiort t<t tltc c<lttstrttctiorr of tneanitlq. The sprrtial asFrects of Pratt's terttt

i1 an lcelaldic perspective thcy r.orrltl corrrprisc lt v.trit'ty ()f rlsPe cts tiorlr tregcltiations - ov('r ilctLlill ttrlt 1rlrt,'t's i,r,,r,rr.;rllstrlt't strttgglcs ovcr st>ciltl sP'tte 'ltttl itlet>logit'rrl
'(.()l)trl('t z()l)e'urc w()rtll ct>trsicleratiotr;


Witchcralt anrl Magit' in Europc:'fhe Middlc Ages

Trolld6nrr in Early Medieual



disorder and harPony-ls between chaos and order.The struggle bet'nveen ,+..r."r.a in trrythological narratir'ies by the spatial inlagery of.Utgardr' the structural harmony i,-r'hrbit.d by demonic ind destructive forces' and a relethe home of gods and men' In Hastrup's nrodei this.i's farm and the cul"ifVliOgr.Or, for the ,o.i.l f-.og'aphy; she also regards the vant pictttre

,-",.asoilasclearlydefinedinopposltlontothewildnessofnatLlre'Fron1 in rhe 1egal systelll where Hastrup,s perspective the same str-ucture is visrble ^"r, a status existence outsicle society in every respect' with *", correspondi,g ""ifr*.y to that of anirnals. It is debatabie how far these inferior view of ttolld(tmr a can be taken, but when str-rdyins the world "fi.Jii"r,, contrivance with such dichotolr-ries is apparent' ideological The terrn 'conceptioll' is used irl this t""1; -to cover the. franreworkarrdthecognitivebasethatformeclwhatwasconceivedtobea is to be ."fr.*", syste,) li,kin'g cause anil effect.This abstractionfollorving compared two Parts the rvith the ritual practic.i arrd legal cocles discussed in as a following disct'ssion^*ill not be of conception -rfl'.rt.r.t they were "iirri, qualiry bui-of the different ways in rvhich ;;.ilr; Hastrup .*fr.rr"a. When ivriting on 'the power of kr-rowledge" Kirsten en-rpirical level .,beliefs" are rlot lir e,rpirical crrtegory, becaltse at srates:. -the 197)'This is certainly belief can,ot b. ,epr.rt.d fr; k"owleJge; (1990a: must be true in a discussion of trolltl(trnr u'herc a recurring question in rnythological lvhether practice .o...rpor.1.d to the itnages presented. discourses' To put narratives and other texts fbrmulatin! lnore nortletive experience itri, ,rro,t.,., rvay: the relatio.shi'p bei'ee" literature and lived rllustbetakenintoconsideratior.wh.rrtheexpression'beliefintrolld'miis usetlitisnotre|erringtoextraordinarySuperllaturalexpetietlcesbuttoa into accollrlt that nrischief, ,u*.,-,-, of k,orvledg. .1-rd .*p1rir-rations ihatiake in everyday life' c'nr,ry and famine ,re.. frctoti to deal with once nrore that there r.t'ere rllso positive aspects to It must be stressed point at inauspicious trclLtlinr.Beliefs and actions dicl not only cause or thi,,gs.Scjdr,thetnoreelaboratedivirrationritual,r,vasalsospokenofas the .iffil",r, to*ing trolldimr, and was used not only to predict (Striinrblick 1935; Iuture, but also to gair.r power over e certaitl situatiolr I)ilhnanrr1986,1992).Wh.t*"nranipulationancldcstructionfrornoneand atlother' Know-ledge perspective *., g.rcli advice and healing fronr
knor.t irr g :tlu :rys ltttbigttorts'

found at all in Old Norse literature. Altogether different matters were the foctrs of interest. "ft'olld6mr conceptior)s dea]t with certain persorls' abrlities to have an influence on fellow humans and on natllre - for better or worse. References to such abilities are given in various texts and cannot be linrited to a particular qenre. Inclividual accounts of trolld|mr in nrost sagas fit into a pattern of local conflicts; hence it rvould be incorrect to isolate these texts from dreir social relations, ideas, and values. Lr sonre respects trolld6mr is also a literary motif with a genuineiy wide use. Arguments in srsa texts besed on trolld6mr had to refer to conurronly shared beiiefs and irssunrptions to nrake sense and be valid. -frolldr5rnr is chosen here as an umbrella ternr to indicate the notions, riturrls, and sociirl interactions in the Olci Norse traditions relating to conceptions about the influence certain pcrsons had - by innate qualities or

tlrrough skill - on the r.vorld surrounding thenr. T'olld6rrr covered an ('xtensive field and cornplex cornbinations of abstractions and ideas as well .rs ritual practices. Conceptions of trollddm,' were alw;rys related to ideas .r[)out power and the experience of the balance of power. The stories are .rlwlys well integrated into a social setting. There is always a distinct pur1,osc for:r sender or an actirtg person.The target for the activities can be a l)('rson, an animal, the landscape of a certain viciniw or [rore abstract entirrcs like prosperiry and lbrtune. Focused as they are on acrions committed, no text tives any formal definition of trolld6mr. lt covers a wide field of ,rssrrnred abilities to change the visible reality by nreans invisible and rrrrrcachable to orclinary people. In nrost texts trolld6wr is said to generate (l('strulction and harm, and is almost always described fronr the perspective ,rl tlre aflbcted.'When x cause w'as asked for,trolld6nrr could serve as a plau',rl,lc and sensible reason for the mishap.With few erceptions performances ,'l tn>lldt5mr for the purposes of creating destruction, sickness, or misforlunc's were clandestine and solitary activities, whiie the positive applicaIr,rrs of such knowledge used in acts of divination were collective events, r'\tr'r.lted nlore or less in public.The talk about cr.rnning deeds was also a lrrrr,lrly social rnatter. The very idea of accusations was the fuel of nruch ancl slander. In Old Norse tradition, trLtlldinv was tlrst of all a way of ',,,,'sip , r1,1;1i11111s the hardships o[ life - rnisfortune, illness, theft, unexpected ,lr'.rtlr, etc (Hastrup 7990a:197if.,1992b; Flowers 1993; Mitchell 1998). It ',, r vt'(l rs a diagnosis of an r-rncontrollable situation. As no established terrrrrn,rlogy existed, a rich variety of terms to describe the extraordinary '.rl',rlrilitics rvas used, rrrlny of thenr witlr the connotations of traditional
ilr( r('r)t lcaruing ancl knowleclgc'. /i,,// is usctl as thc first clcrncrrt of thc tcrnr to inc'lic:rtc thc nrytholoqical l',r,'otrrrtl t() tllc ('()n('cl)t5 iul(l :rcts tlisctrssed.'I'hc rcscrrr[rllrrrcc <lf worc'ls rrr nrorlt'rr) St';rrrtlirtltvr:ut l:rrrgrr;rgt's is itrtr'rtt.iort:rl.'l-lrt'rrr<ltivc is t<l ttlrrk lr ,lr',t.rtttt' t() t('rnls'rtvt',1 lronr (ltt' (it'tnt:rtt rvot-tl 'llt'xt",:r (()l)('('l)t tl)llt

'l-Irc Conct'Pt of


(irtrttrtott irrrlrcclicrtts in tllc (lorrtirrcrltrtl lllvthol()gy oItlrc crtrlv rttodcrtt .witclr (.r.ilz(. ,,likc tlrt, witclrcs'srrtrlrrrtlr ,rr otlrcr rror'turtt:tl g:ttlrcrirlgs, rittrrll .t..' tt.,('r .ll. slrr,lll . l.),l.l'..,.,' .,t.rIit.s tll. irr'.t.vt.rsirrtt .,,1- 1.;11111iIl.rIistt,..


Agcs Witchcraft dncl Magic in Eutope :T'hc Middle

Trolld6mr in Early Mcdieual Scandinauid

pared to share her knowledge


was first introduced

in Scandinavian languages cluril]s the witch-craze of to. cover tnany the seventeellth century. Tiollcl|mr is also wide enough cunning deeds in Old.Norse li'ter;.;" of extraordina.yi'towltdge rncl frequent' aithough the use of the ature. I)iffer.r, .ot rpo'.,nds withioll- are i, ,-rro..-."rely fotrnd. Even leis contnlon is the ter,r /rol1forn-t trolld1mn

skapr.hplausible reason is that the

"ri ;;;, i.r*f.

r_,orLn abstract cliscussions. Tioltis a terl,1

focus on concrete deeds'Scrrin3nr' i' the ne,ter c:rse and is not, text can appear in both rnale and g.,lJ.. specific.The trolls of the term' ,fr.p. .nd- the word is therefore suitable as a technical

inJicattons that mighry powers

Itseerrlsthatthevariotrscorrrpoundsserveclassignalsinthetextsandas *"tt i' the wind'When analysing them it is rernr and not very fruitful to rry to establish a an advantage to use "irora fronr supernatural beings or hutnans' l7ol/ is ittilnrr'gJ,r.r1ogy'that stems supernatural beings in Old the trame of a rather ".g"tly defined gtot'p of Linclow 1993)'They are demonic Norse nrythology (Hahirsen 1982a,b; but n-rostly spoken of as a beings, sometimes ..,lng .' individuai c.haracters is also used to characterize hu'tans harrnful collective. Ho#rr.r, the ternr withspecialcapabilities,andisevcnassociatedr'vithgiants'TQtnar'orrelated to the deacl. The *o.d i' also frequently used in early Scandinavian monsters etc' But Christian literattlre as arr equival"nt of devils, denrorrs, asir and as a threat to the harnrony mostly /roll refers to the enenries of the Ross 1994)' of Midgardr (Hastrup 19U1,'1990a, 1992b;Clunies .words point in several directions, particassociatecl *rtt, trlr.,tt,llnrr could out lo.ud' There was a ulariy those concernins knowleclge ancl speaking and knowing' and persons rich variety in terrlrs ,elating to'knon'leJgc generaliy described as affiliatecl with tyolldinrr in oid Norse text.i were both'to know to understand' to ku"o,meaning krrcr*1.dg.rble.The urrb ,to have insighiin the old traditions and lore' and know by heart, as u,ell as iio U.t-r"". prop"rly,, i, .t th. core oithis senlanric field.When'knorv'or .krrowledge,areusedinarrC)ldNorseContextthewordslraveafarmore English'Thereforr' the enric elaborate si.gnifrcation than is usual in modern a constant rel.ninder of the ilnpli(folk or local) terms will be used here, as cations of knor,vledge in the original context' --i.e. to havc R, .o,rld,b. said to Le -fiqlkunnigr or margk.wmigr, usecl ill :t But this was certainlv never much knolvledge about nrany thing.s. woulcl always tell of thc neutral way; the .o.r.1.""t"' of ""1] knowleclce and 'l (r thc trvo wolner)' (leirrit)r trltir-rrate purpose. ln iyrttygqla saga 15 si,rilar tcrtrlirlt> rts and Katia, are both a..pi.i.i itr tertrts of a very tit't' Ilttt wlrcrr it t't:rtrtcs t. ;;^1r thcir k,orvlc.lg.: ,,,r,1 their rbilitics. 'r'tt rrlrrifi'st.'['lrc irttetttiott itt thc ttsc ol t1,.,.]i.,r"ry clifli,rcrrt chrr'rctcrs bccorrrc rts ltlwrtys, kttowletlgt' kno,nvlctlgc lrlrv:rys tunls ()ut t() [re ll tlist'l<lsttrc; ('\il(l Ii1'rlr1'qq-'r 'rrl(rl tlt,t': ttol tlivt':ll)y ,.rrrl,l Ir..] lr<,tll trs.'r.1 lttltl tttisttst'tl' otrlv (lr.rt ()l)('()l tlttttl ts Itt' ol'rvlr:tt tlrt'rvorrrt.rr ,'..,illy ,1,,,

with a young nran while the other uses it to harm hinr severely when he resists her erotic invitations. There is a rich variety of terms relating to knowledgeable persons and their activities, good or evil (Mundal and Steinsland 19i39; Hastrup 1990a: 197ff.; Pilsson 1997:158fr.; Flowers 1993; Mundal 1993b).A rough division of the terminology can be made between words relating to descriptions of men and wonlen assurned to be, or accused of being, knowledgeable and performing trolldimr, and difTerent activities or deeds based on assurned trolldtimr and age-old lore. The vocabulary deviates in ditlerent genres of Old Norse literature and some of the terrns have .rlready been mentioned above. There was mostly a sender and these persons - or maybe 'personalities'is a better word * always had a name with a visible gender. Males could be called galdrdmadr, uitki, skratti, trollmadr; and
latter often in connecA radical way of desecrating a person thought of as -scl<Jr kuowledgeable was to give hinr or her the name of a supernatural berng Irke illucrttr, meinuettr, or rtucrttr. In contrast to males, human fernales in the s:rsas could be given the names associated with the many evil-minded
tl'rrrales gyor, seidkona, spikona, trollkona, uglua, the

tion with


rnythological women. Action and result were the focus of the ternrinology related to the knowl,'rlge able persons' activities, gerningar or -fordceduskapr. Deed, did, a;nd advice, r,ir), were loaded ternrs that flavoured the texts when used.To be-fr6dr meant to be knowing and well inforrned in a general sense, but it also included the tr':rtlitions of old (fiirn) ttrnes,Jontfrtidr, -forncskja and having access to the o1d I'rrowledge, as we saw in the terminology used to portray what Grettir's rrrother had to say. Fredi hinted at both the abstract aspect of knowledge and l,'.rrning and the exercise of charms and spells. To predict the future, at -spl, \\,r\ ull instrunlent to protect the coming season and the future of children. 'l'here is a general tendency to historicize extraordinary knowledge in t )lrl Norse literature. Such instghts are represented as the innate traditions ,,1 trlcl tirnes,.fornfridr,.forneskia. A term llke -fornJrcedl referred both to the .rl)sn'ilct aspect of knowledge and learning and to the actual performance, r , . t lrarms or spells.Terms in this semantic field pointed to some individu-

rl: lrlvilrg or exhibiting the capacity for discerning and the intelligent rpplicltion of knowledge, or to the ability to act in situations where other 1r.r,[rlc with r.nore linrited rnental capaciry had reached their ]imit. l'lrc rrrtrltipliciry of nreanings is a crucial feature of the trolld|my texts rrr,l .r key to understanding theur.As mentioned in the introductory disr u\\l()n of thc sourccs, tlre s:rgr tcxts c;rn certainly not unconditionally be r,.r(l :rs lristoricrl clocurrrcnts. As soci:rl nrenrorics thcy firnnulated an ideal ,rl trrrt's l)ilst ir) lvlri<'lr knolvlctlgc ot-tlrc <lld tl:rys w:rs l powerftrl resource. ',rrll, tlrt'y cxl)rcss rrttittttlt's ,uttl sl:uttlpoirrts. if-n()[ l('('rlnrtc dcscril-rtiorrs of , 'rr(('l)ti()r)s .trttl rtttt.tls; nro,lt's ol ltorv to rll:rtt' (o tltt' l)ilst, ils rrrrrt'lt :rs


Witchuqft and Magk in Europe:T'Irc Middle Ages

Trolld6rnr in Early Mcdieydl



relating to somethirrg necessarily 'supern:rtural'. 'Magic, witchcraft, and healing constiture a field of indigenous explanatior-rs of individual success o. nrisiortune' (Hastrup 1990a: 197). Knorvledge about the past was a way of establishing authority. Refererrces to what was -forn had a significant effect as an arslument, and adcled to that was a flavottr of the capacity to see into the future. With the exceptioll of scidr tro activity is nrore closely connected tcl trolld6ntr thar-r the art of carving runes with the ain-r of cursing or healing' llunes are letters, adapted in part from Latin, and mostly preserved as inscriptions on wood, bone or stone. Most of the stone inscriptions were memorials of individuals and their deecls, br.rt in the sagas scenes with the carving of runes were also a way of tellins of people who made use of tl-rcir iiolld6mr knowledge. The rr-rnic alphabet was not just an ordinary writing systent used foi straightforward communication, but to a large extent associated rvith the carver'.s special abrlities.These Old Norse letters were kept in use for several hupdreds of years after the introduction of christianiry and Latin letters, for rvriting charms, notes, and also prayers to the Holy Virgin and the saints. The technique of formulatinu a plea .er-,rair-,ei, but-the religious contexr changed. Sometimes the old Norse difference between writing runes and the art of texts do not reveal "ry-i".l singing powerful songs.When a phrase like'carving runes'appears in the t.*i, li car., also .orrrl," pe.fonlring tr.olld|mr in a rnore lleneral sense. Of all poets and characrers 6dirn is described as the rrraster of is a nrajor al1 ihese potent c."fts. His quest for rvisdom and powerful runes Hiuamal we read therrre in mythological nairatives. In the Eddic poe,t about the most wise of gods and nlen:
The runes yolr must lind and the meanir.rgful letter, a very great letter, a very Powerftrl letter,

literature is well documented (Boyer 1986; Hastrup 1990a: 197ff.; PSlsson 1991).The pronouncement of words r.vas recognized to have a tremendous influence over the concerns of life.The inrpact of a sentence uttered aloud could not be questioned and could never be taken back - as if it had become sornehow physical. Strong and powerful worcJs reappear throughout the sagas. Words create reality - not only the other way around. Concrete expression and utterance had a digniry and a status, as is cornrnon in oral cultures. Many of the deeds of cunning people were not necessarily done but spoken. The forrnr-rlaic elenrents were supposedly vital when performing trolld\mr.Therefore, the verb .gala,'to say, speak out ioud, utter, sing'is the focus in this context. Metaphoricallv the word also lreant chanting and singing, but not always wirh pleasant sounds: it could comprehend 'to crow, to cry', or everl refer to anirnal sounds, e.g. repulsive rroise, wild cries. The associations of the verb gala are clearly negative. A participal fornr of-the verb,galinn,corid also be used for describing a persoll out of his or her mind - insane or bewildered. lt is unclear r.vhether this referred to the state of the performer or to the efltct of the song or perhaps both. This particular stare of r.nind was characteristically interpreted as honourable and at the same tirne indicated the ar.nbigr-rous posirion of the poet and his praised abilities, skildskapr.The bard was therefore ke'eper of social r-nerrory and the key to days gone by. Many terms themsclves do not indicate arry estinration, and connote the possibility of tlestruction. I3estiality or rnadness were powerful irnaees of the enernies of the harmony and order that characterized the ideals of Midgardr. Not surprisingly a usual punishrrent for performing trolldtinr was outiewry. The power of the spoken word is an apparent exanrple of cr-rltural contirruity. Although pag:rnism was srrongly condemned by the Church, rnany .f its practices rvere transformed into modes of religious expression .rcceptable to the Church. Among them rvas the trust in prayers and bless-

which the rnightY sage stained and the Powerful gods n.rade -..rn.rrrrrt.. of the gods carvecl out'4 ancl the (trans. by Larrington 1996:34)

u)lr, the latter often accompanied by sonre kind of rituai behaviour. ln rrrrrch later recorded rural fblklore, uttered phrases were thought to have a

The nrythological images of Odinrr's corrplex relation to runes

forms of narratives.


troltitdmi,withlts strength and artrbiguities, cot'rstitute a paradignl for other



'l'lrt' rrrost itrrpor.t;rrrt t(.nlls ('()llr)('ctctl to tntlldirttt'citlrcr rcfi'r to krtorvl' ()ltl Nolsc t'.1g.. .rr t9 tlrr' spokt'rr rvoltl.'l'lrt' irttpot'trtrtr't' ol tltt' l;rttt'r' irr

by minimal to work out as a kind of fictive rituals: the narration of a r itual - sometinres in a forrlrulaic nrode and n-raybe accompanied by syml,.lic bodily nlovellrents - was thought to have the same impact as if actu.rllv perforrned (Raudvere 1c)93: 157ff.,301f.).sWhen fornrulated in words rlrt. lrealins or destrllction was believed actually to take place.'In Old l, t'l:rrrdic.qalrirreferrecl to a song, rlainly in the sense of"charrn" or"spell". llrt' corresponcling vcrb wls,(,(//d, t() "chlnt" or to "cast spells".This linrrrrstic tlerivlrtion is:ur irrrportilnt kcy to tlrc senrlrrrtics of rnagic', Kirsten I l.rstrrrp writcs (l()()O;r: 2{){)).'l'lrc ser.orrtl fi';rttrrc ('()nn()tcs tlrc pcrfirrrrrrrtivc ,r\l)('('t\ of- tlre rrst' ol'lvonls. ( ,r/r/r., sorrr-ts ()r l)()('try rvitlr spe r'i:rl p()wer, wus tlrt' irrstrrrrrrt'rrt lirl tltr' |,1'slirrrrrt.t (l l.rlvorst.n l()lil) .fust .rs .r Poct r'orrlcl
t.rrrLrible effect. Spells describing ceremonies accornpanied
n)()vel]1ents seem


ll/it&craft and Magic in Europe:Tlrc Mitldle


Tiolld6mr in Early Medieual



enchant his audience, so a person with the right insights could use loudly uttered rvords for protectioir, healiug, ot' cursing. ln gelleral, r,vhat rvas said

in public had a certain

erciu,led fronr public speech acts ro a large extent, the cottceptions of authoritative speech formed the basis of a genclered social space. l)ue to this also 111ore or less excluded tiom trials.The texts therelore hint irt words rltterecl in secrecy, r,vhen wonten were supposecl to Practisc

epistemological_ status.

But since women


adclresses Gr6a, a rplrra w'hose son he clailrrs to be, asking for her assistance in his quest to win iris bride. Frorn the first stanza it is evident that the younl rnan is communicating '"vith the uqlua in her srave and commanding her to arise.Tlre sanre prevalent in Vpluspa 2tl where before ragnargk the end of the world - Odinn visits the grave of a uqlud to obtain the advice he needs befbre lacing the flnal battle. In Grdgaldr the wise woman (lr6a responds to her sorl'.s plea ancl gives hinr nine galtlrar for protection ag.rinst enernies and harm, and ends her nronologue in this very motherly r.vay:

ferent nretres used itr ditTerent qenres.Also trolld6mr had its poetics and distirrctive forms of expression ti lltld,thittr and galdralag Gt. 101)- A whole 'Lj6datal' and pr-rts section of nretric ,p"il, ,t the end of Hiuamil is narrred power{ul sones into the r.rrouth of Odinn. Carolyne Larrington characterir., th. sectiin in the lbllowing way:'The lj6datal is a iist of eighteen spells, w.hose contellts are briefly sketched, but rvhose text is nevcr

Srrorri Sturlr-rson's hanclbook for poets Hittatal gives a catalogue of dif-

Never now go rvhere danger appears;

and rnay no evil bar you t}om bliss! C)n a stone firm in the earrh rvithin doors I stood,

I chanted you


given,(1993: 62).The themes for the area of use are giverr,but not spells as lneant to s-uch. It nrust be remembered as rne read that Hiuanill lvas never the,lnearrings of be a docurnentation of spells, but a poet's visualization of
por,verful worcls,.gal;r sorigs.Ar., e*a,rple is stanza 151 r,vhere Odinn speaks of rhe situation of being &por..l to aitacks frorn evil runes and bad speech and the poet rnakcs ui r-rnderstancl that the insighful god can turn the
assault back against the sender:

nrother'.s words

take r.vith you, son, au,ay fi-onr here, and keep thenr stored in your heart; ever rrbounding uood ibrtune shail you have throughout life, ,t. lottg as )ou ntirrd nry words.l
(trans. by

Robinson 1991:66)

I know a sixth one if a mau wounds me r,r,ith the roots of the sap-filled \ 'ood: and that man who conjured to harm me, the evil collsunles him, uot nle'r' (trans. bv Larrington 1996:36)
The field of extraorclinary knowledge is encompassecl in the stauza' Galdr can also be synonyrnoLrs with practisid nolldt5nu as i. the phrase: galdrar ok gQltingdr,crafty words and deeds. Kirsten Hastrup calls galdr'the original ter m fo, ,-,.,igi.' (19V0a: 20()). Knorvledge ;urd utterance were closely associated' for .rr.,.pi. in the expre ssion galdrar ok fiqlk1'ngi. Frcrn gala and galdr a rich varior ery of corrrporrnds enanates. People could be called .galdral< ona, g.a,ldranmdr, galdiligr and the golrlrn u*rrand their art or character galdralist, galdrafttllr, and pr.rrr-rr.d equipntent of the perfor rncrs gald-rab'ile (book of ,qaldr songs)' or .go/were rlrastafr lqaldr wand). The ternrinology indicates that the perfbrnrers thorrghtlo need inst^rnler1rs to be able to ',ediate their insigl'rts. Aiecur.e,-rt thenre in Old Norse litemttrre is trtetr lncl wcltttct-t itt possessioD of strotrg words who givc their itssistencc tr> l)coplcirl ncccl by te.rclrirrg tlterrr 1.rcrwcrii,l ,r".r.r.Th.l dicl;rctit- tltctrrc is rtpp;trcrrt :ts iirrlrr rrrrti c<lrttr'rtt. Wc lt:tvc sccll s()l)l(' [rricf-t'x:trlrplcs titlrrr I lir"tttt'il tlt:tt tt';lt'lt (')<lirrt\ .rIrilitit's. llt ,tttrltllt't-p6c'tlt ol'tlrc /)rrr'lit l:rll't. ()ni.q'tltlr':l y()tlllg lll:lll

Althor-rgh the context is fragr.nentary we can notice the claimed mclther-son relationsl'rip rvhich is also a nranifest nrotif in the sagas rvhere fosterr-nothers oficn act to protect their sons, sometirnes by means of trolld6mr and powerful

u'ords. Gr6a is not referred to in any negiltive tcrnN, in contrrrst to yet ,urother Eddic poern, Hyndluli6d, r,vhere is addressing a uglua to gain .rdvice alld the answering tone is quite cold and relnctant. Gr6a'.s enullleration of beneficial aclvice is quite sinrilar to equivalent catalogues and could in \()n)e aspects be compared to Odirrn's list o{ goldr songs in Hiyamil. Frorn the Continent sonre interesting exanrples of early nredieval spelJs .r)(l charnls are preserved. Compared to the advice tn Hiutrmil, Carolyne l.rrrington remarks,'The L;6c\atal is an index to spells,but spells r'vhich are n()t "genuine", in that sense tilat the Old English charrr-rs, or the Old High ( io'nrefl Merseburg Ch:trrns are'(1993: (r3). In the second of the trvo C)ld Ilish (lernran so called Merseburg Charnrs help is asked lbr frorn pagan ()ld Norse nrytholog,v (Hanrpp :,,,,,1s, whclse n;rnles are recognizablc frorn l'X,l;WoliF l9(r3;Wipf 1975).The plrrpose of thc spell is thc healing of a

lr,rrsc urrtl it r,vus r,vrittcrr rlow'rr irr tlre tcrrth ccntury, dcfinitcly (.lrristi:rrr c()r)tcxt. lt rcrtls irr;r prosc trrlr)sl:rti()r):



;rrttl Wotlrrrr


ltlrt'()lrl lliglr (it'rttt:ttt n.un( ()l ()r)111111 t'otlt'ittto tltc tlrt' lon'lt't,, ol l|,rltlt'r'ls lt<rrs<' rv.ts tlislor.rlt'tl; llrt'n Sintrltrrrt .rltrl


Witchua;ft and Magic in Europe:The Middle Agcs

Trol1d6mr in Early Mcdieual



Sunna, her sister, sang over it, then Friia andVolla, her sister, sang over it, than Wodan sang over it, for he could do that well: be it dislocation of bone, be it an ailment of the blood, be it dislocation of the linrbs: bone to bone, blood to blood, iimb to linrb, as if they were glued.s

The gods are urged to sing over the wounded lir-nb and seemingly their
son5; as such had the assumed healing power.e In cornparison with much later recorded spells a formal sinrilarity can be noted.The healing situation

or a confrontation - a rlreeting between the healer and the patient and a confrontation of curing and destructive forces. A parallel situation is constructed (the gods are riding their horses and an injury springs up) which is followed by a threefold parallel structure: 'bone to bone ...'The first Merserburg Charm also shows thernatic resernblances with Eddic poety.This Old High German text deals with releasing prisoners and breaking up fetters by rneans of the spoken word, a therne prevalent also in Eddic poetry. Here is Hdvamil 149, where
was aln-Lost always expressed as a nreeting

argues, a'charm can be viewed as a structure rather than a haphazard conglomeration of magically necessary ingredier-rts' (1985: 36). A very special form of intentional use of the spoken word in order to aclrieve destruction is nid, referring to both verbal genre and ritual practice (Meulengracht Sorensen 1983, 1993; Hastrup 1990a: 200f.). It can be defined as ritual insulting and verbal defarration, very often with rough sexual allusions.There are hints of the concept in various texts and in Christian legal,ts. A well-known example of thrs harsh for,r of poetic creativity is found in Egik saga Skalla-Crimssonar (57). Already in the famous

poet's genealogies there are conlnlents about his ancestors which rnakes the

Odinn claims

I know a fourth one lgaldr songl if men put

chains upon nry limbs; I can chant so that I can walk away, fetters spring from my feet, and bonds from my hands.ll)
(trans. by

reader realize that he is a person with extraordinary capabilities. Egil1t srandfatheri narne is Kveld-Ulfr, literally 'Evening Wolf', which usualiy is interpreted to mean that he was thought to be a shapeshifter wirh the ability to take the temporal fornr of a wolf at r-right. Another relative of Egillt is noted to be'half a troll', hilftrall, i.e. of demonic origin. Not sr_rrprisingly Egill is a man who knows how to use the spoken word and how to carve runes. At one point, as his conflicts with king Eirikr of Nor-way (known as 'Eirikr Blood-Axe') and his wife Gunnhildr reached their climax, Egill is said to have raised a hideor-rs pole with carved runes, r.ridslpng, against thenr.

Larrington 1996:35)

The few Old High Gerrran spells that are preserved are generated from a distinctly Christian context and reveal another characteristic feature also apparent in later charnrs: the seemingly unproblentatic nlix of pagan conceptions with references to Christ, the Virgin, the saints etc. The structure seems to be an indication of continuity not only in form but also in the understanding of the power of the spoken word. The text quoted above shows striking conceptual and formal sirnilarities with the well-known Anglo Saxon Journey Spell'that begins: I protect nryself with this rod, and commend myself to the grace of God, Against the grievous stitch, against the dire strike of disease, Against the gruesome horror, Against the frightful terror loathsome to all men,
Against all evil, too, that nray invade this
(trans. by Grendon 1909:177)

Egill went up onto the island. He took a hazel pole in his hand and went to the edge of a rock facing inland. Then he took a horse's head :rnd put it on the end of the pole. Afterwards he nrade an invocation, saying'Here I set up this scornpole lilidstqngl ancl turn its scorn upon King Eirikr and Qtieerr Gunnhildr'- then turned the horse's head to face land -'and I turn irs scorn Lrpon the nature spirits llanduettirl that inhabit this land, sending thetr astray so that none of thenr shall find its resting-place by chance or design until they have driven King Eirikr and Queen Gunnhildr fiom this land'. Then he drove the pole into a cleft in the rock and left it to stand
there. He turned the head towards the land and carved the whole invocetion in runes on the pole. ll As in the poetical and nryrholosical context of Hiuaruil there is no rnentrorr ofwhat words are uttered,only a considerable stress on the act ofspeakrrrs.'k> chase arvay the laduettir was obviously the best method of making rlrt' king rncl clucern leave. when the spirits were displeased a place was tlr.rrsht to be left witlr<>ut protection ancl peace. Egill'.s rid is not left r.rnanfbllows rt |.rrlttc'1ll of actiort ln(l cr()nnteractiorr. Queen Gr-rnnhildr "rvt'rctl, btrt r: rrot withotrt spccirrl lbilitics lrcrself arrd tlrc cvil-rrrintlccl rvontan sends l,.rt'k rt spcll rturrirrst lrirrr. Irr:r strcsslirl sittrutiorr firrtlrt'r orr irr thc tcxt she l.t't'Ps Iruill :rwrrkt' tlrc rvlrolc rriglrt Irv :rsstrrrrirrs tlrt. lirr.rrr ol'rr trvittcring bird siltr't'tltt'rtt:rlir'iorrs (lu('r'n tunls orrl lo lrr.rr slrtrPt'slrilir'r'too (5()).

The charnr ends with a long catalogue n:rnring the HolyTrinity, Mary


characters fi'onr the Olci Tl'stanrclrt, anlolrq others. Spclls likc this constitrrtc lrr irrdiclrtitlrt of a ('()-prcscllcc of tr;rtlitiorrs rrot orrly irr nrr'trt' lrrrrl gt'rrrc

bttt ;rlso :ts rt'gurtls rltc rc:tlity ol'tlrr' powerlirl lvortl. As llt';rtlrt'r



Witchcraft and Magic in Europe:'lhe Middle Ages Fatc and Destiny

Tiolld6nrr in Early Medieual



Most activities relating to trollddmr, positively or negatively, referred to conceptions of fate in one way or the other. The sagas tell of cerernonies and rituals that ain'r to reveal what the future holds. The task of conducting these ceremonies was linuted to the knowledgeable. In Vatnsdela saga 1() auqlua is invited to tel1 fortunes at a grand Gast.The knowledgeable woman is said to be from Lapland, a Finn.a. As will be discr-rssed further down, Saanri people are generally described in biased terms as
specially skilied in cunning deeds. She has nrainly positive things to forecast, but young Ingimundr does not want to hear about his future in advance and not to believe in prophecies.Then the uqlud, unbidden, tells him that he will become a settler in lceland and a lost token will be found as a sign of her trustr'vorthiness.The scene is constructed as a confrontation befr,veen the attitudes towards one of the fundanrental concepts in the Old Norse world view: an individuall given destiny. Ingimundr'.s cornpanion repeatedly tells him how vain it is to struggle against his destiny. But as always in a good story the prediction comes true and the fight between the seeres and the recipient turns out ro be an inrportant narrative instrunrent. A multitude of conceptions describing interhuman relations were linked to the ideas of fate and destiny. Power, control and domination rvere always

and choices. They reveal a tension between freedom and dependence. Nevertheless, there can seem to be a contradiction in terrns: the conceptions of destiny could also be viewed as a definition of personal freedorn. L-)n the one hand, the linrits are set and it lies within the hunran condition to identify thern and act within the given space; on the other, choices and their consequences over a longer period of time is an inrportant theme in the sagas. More than a seneral dependence on fate, it was used in the narratives when explaining something of utmost intportance. Destiny was in one sense given, but still there were opportunities for developing diflerent strategies, as recently analysed by Margaret Clunies l{oss (1994) in connection with the fundamental structure for the perception of time.

Prosperity and Enuy

nlore or less under the surface when different fortunes are to1d. Conceptions of trillddmr in relation to knowledge were also closely connected with conceptions of destiny (Hallberg 1973; Mundal 1971;
Lcinnroth 1976:123ff.).The predicted destiny of individuals, families, gods and other nlythological beings - even of the universe itself at ragnarqk - is constantly referred to in various kinds of texts and all of these were, along with the material world, subject to the fina1 fatal destruction. There is a strong relationship between conceptions of fate and O1d Norse nrythological narratives of creation ancl destruction. The importance of destiny rnust llot be unclerstood to nrean that the Norsemen held purely fatalistic beliefs. Rather it must be r.rnderstood in terms of knowing the future, in order to keep it under some kind of control. l)ivination rituals and the perforn'rance of seidr, either by Odinn in nlyths or execr-rted by invited specialists as in the example front Vatnsdtxla -saga above,were expressions of ways of frnding the keys to hidden parts of reality and measuring what was given.The results of divination nrarked the lirnits of individual free will and after the divination ceremony strategies could be made for acting within these linrits. Hence, prophecies, dreanrs and dream interpretations, and curses were treatecl with the greatest concern. Many of therl also con.rprise reasonings on trolldinr aud extraordirtary knowleclge. Il.elating to late, or destiny, these wrtys of tellirrr-r iruplv tlrc lirnitlrtiorrs tlrltt lrlve bccrt stlked otrt irrtlcl'rurdcrrtly o[- lrrurr:ur Irclruviorrr

Abstract ideas about late and destiny are for-rnd in Old Norse literature .rlong with very concrete configurations of beings that are supposed to nrle over sliccess and failure. This inseparable blend flavours all the stories ,tt' trt5lldomy. Kirsten Hastrup and Orvar Lofgren have discussed rvhat they , :rll 'the econonry of fortune' as a latent model in the social landscape of Scrndinavia (1992). Such a model was a nrode of explaining the hardships ,rrrtl the very diflerent fortunes of life.Their article is based on much later lirlklore recordings, but their arguntents can be applied to Old Norse society as well. I-inked to destiny, each individr"ral and each family had their share of forIrure, materially as well as in a more abstract sense. Fortune and the good tlrirrgs in life were considered a constant, i.e. when somebody gained pros;,t'rity, sol11eone else necessarily lost it. Resources were lirnited. (.onceptions of luck and fortune explained not only the current situation, lrrrt also social structures in general and why there were more and less l)11)sperous fanrilies. Fortune was something given and only trolldt5rur could , lr.urqe what was settled. Not surprisingly, n'rore attention was paid to bad lrr, k tl.ran to success.There were many stories about destructive evil forces, l,t'rsonal i11-wi11, and greed.The notion of 'the economy of fortune'served ,rs .r rcpressive nrechanisnr and offered explanations for economic inequal-

rtv irr rural Scandinaviir. In this sense, it was also an instrument for social ()rltl'()l in an oppressive system that concealed power relations (Hastrup .rrrtl l.ijf{-rrcn 1992:25O; Hrrstrup 1992b). What little was left could always l'(. l,lkclt llw]y. 'lltr' notiort oIirrstlr[rility wils r)()t orrly arr ecorrorrric considcrlticll; to a l,rrr'.t't'xtcttt it ulso t-ott, t't'ttt:tl t'rotit rrllt't'tiorr.Witlr trr,//r/rilrr, Ir>vc cotrlcl be lrotlt :rrottst'rl :rrrt'l stillt'tl. Srrt lr rrotiorrs t'n'rrtt'rl't' lirr sl)('(-ulilti()l)s il[)()ut


Witchcrdft and Magir in Europe :'1'1rc Middlc Agcs

Tiolid6nrr in Early Mcdieual Scandinavia



sinister manipulation.There was always a latent threat of insidious attack.A sudden mischief could be caused by an obscure enemy, acting himsel7her-

self or througl'r a cunning person'.s rnaterialized will. In this nroral econorrry enrotions :urcl social potver internringled to a great extent. 'There rre nrally references to destiny and fortune in Old Norse literaposes.

ture, either giving strength to an argunrent or for purely narrative purThere was also an abstract ternrinology of the subject (Hallberg

1973;l.onnroth 1976). Fate in general was called dudna or with positive connotations gipta and gaft, and souretimes individual fate,-lbrlqq. Mostly, though, fate was discussed not in abstract exegesis br-rt in stories, tnythological or other. There are nrany'agents of fate', to use Lars Lonnroth's phrase - characters that eppear in the sasas as personifications of destiny, luck or nrisfortunc'.The diflerent nrythological beings rel:rted to late and destiny are harcl to separate from each other and the texts interchauge the difTerent cateqories and names. Many tinres they have a clouble position of both forming individual destinies and having the ability to look into the futr.rre.The characters that represent tlre conceptions of fate are given female body, if not appearing in anirral forru. -the.fylglur are guardian spirits cor-rnected to individual persons or farlilies (Mundal1971,l993b; Lindow 1L)87,1993).The word derives from the OId Norse verb,-fylgia, 'to follow', and is also associated with the noun for caul or afterbirth. They appear in the ciistinct visible shapes of anirnals or wonlen ancl in a metaphorical sense fo11ow their concerns. Else Mundal has shown that the diflerent suises are accordingly used in two very different ways in the texts (Mundal 1971).'Thesc two types have little in conrmon but the nanre', she writes (Mundal 1993b: 62,1).The aninral-fy/qia was a synrbolic ir-n:rge pointing at the inner clualities r>f its owner, a constant syrrbolic characteriz:rtion. As nretaphor the -fylgla tells a iot about the person it follou,s. Strengtl.r, an evil nrind, or social position was visualized in the inrage olta bear, a rvolf, or an eagle.The aninral shape was not supposed to vary over tinre and r,vas therefbre tl-rought to be easy to identify. In the texts.fyl,qjur brirrg warirings or advice.The animal-ly{qio rs told of as appearing in front of its ou,ner, often in clreams, and givine indications of events to come. As such it is a representation of the futr-rre itseil-, not the character of a person. Like a person'.s fate the -fylgla is not chanseable, nor can it irrrprove or act on its own.Tl-re antntal .fyl,q1a works, as Else Mr"rndal puts it, like a nrirror (Mundal 1971 40).The identity of the two is absolute and therefore the death of a-fyl.q1a also predicts the cleath of its owr-rer. A.fylda in the shape of a wour:rn is rtrore of a guarclins ancl helpirrg spirit that protects not nrerelv an incliviclual but a rvhole frtntily. This is .r rn<rre abstmct rspt: ct closcly rclatcrl to tlte c()nccpti()ns ot' ltarrtirt.qjt (Mtrrrrl;rl 1()7-1: 86tf ).'l'lrc trvo rrrc lrrrrtlly selrilr:l[)l(' evt'rr firr rrrr:rlysis.'l lrc

ln this latter aspect in not even always given a physical form, bLrt spoken of more diffusely as standing behind the family. Sometitues the-[,iq7a is called spidk, indicating that the character had a function as a diviner for the protection of the family. When appearing in a drearn she could be calic'd dreanr-woman, draumkona.These aspects of late are very cotrcrete in their bodily appearance, showing themselves for a short while, but leaving no roorn for alterrrarive interpretations. The norns, nttrnir, perhaps the nrost well known in the group of rnythological beings related to fate.They are spoken of as carving runes or weaving destinies and fortunes. In nrythological narratives they are said to clwell at the foot of Yggdrasill, close to the r,vell associated with insights rrr.rd clandestine knowledge.ln Vqluspl they seenr to controi the destiny of tlre whole universe, doonrecl to destruction. The wise maidens, rnL'1tilv, rtrargs uitandi, are irt this text given individual symbolic nanres, (Jrdr, Verdandi, and Skuld, popularly interpreted as 'Past','Present' ancl 'Future'. O:rrolyne Larrington's translation is more faithful to thc original text:
I know that an ash-tree stands calledYggdrasiil, high tree, soaked w-ith shining loam; frorl there conle the der.vs which fall in the va11e1,, ever lgeen, it stands over the r'vell of fate.

Fronr there come three girls, knowing a great dea1, frorl the lake which stands under the tree; Fate one is called, Becon'ring another they carved on rvooclen slips - Must-be the third; they set down larvs, they chose lives, for the sons of men the fates of nren.l3 (trans. by Larrington 1996:6)

'l lrese two stanzas end the Vgluspi version of the creation myth and it is lr.rrdly a coincidence that the'l'that speaks - the uglua r,vho is telling the

lirnclanrentals of the mythological universe - places the wotneu by the trunk ,,1'Yggclrasill, the very synrbol of the world of sods and nren.'When t:orrsid,'rits tntlldtinrr, the etynrology of the name isYggr'.s [i.e. Odinn'.s] horse indi* r.rtcs his ride to clandestine realnrs. Although nrythical by definition, uontit'

iclly appear in



In Norra-Ccs/s pittr it is hard to diflerentiate

l)('twcert rrorrir establishing a destiny and the invited rglur reading the future. ll)e text tells of a gathering at a wealthy fartnhouse to which three invited .rrrtl lronotrreci wonren corne. C)f the three visiting wonren, olrc \&?Ilts to l,rurish Nornu (icstr'.s niothcr for bad treatlnent by giving thc bov a short lrlt', lvlrilc thc otlrcr t$() srvc thc siturrtiorr.'T'he varicty rrnrl rnixing oltr:rtnes ,rl rlrc ugr'rrts irrrlit':rtc tll;rt n()t too rntri'lr c:ur bc tir:nvn ti-orrt trrcrcly tltc usc ,rl.t r'crt:tirt tt'rnt. l;ottrs is on tlrt'irr(r'rrtiort,:tt'tiott:rtttl (()t)s('(lu('ll('('.


Wirchcra;fr and Magic

in Europe:1hc Middle


Trolld6nrr in Early Madicudl Scandinauid


J'here are several other exanrples in the sagas of how Gmale figures of rlrore or less nrythological character bring messages of times to come. Darradarlj|d, a long poen.r in l,ljils saga 157, tells of a Good Friday shortiy belore an important battle when twelve women on horseback appear (Liirrnroth 1976:134;l)armshoit 1984; Kress 1993: 97f, Poole 1993).The wolnen turn out to be valkyries and have come to give their support to the yor.rng king. They seenr to have an irnportant influence on the oLltconre of the conring battie and give a horrifiiing image of things to come. 'fhe rnetaphor of weaving is used in a nronstrous mode. The introductory lines and the first two stanzas of this strong imagery read: Merr's heads were used for weights, rnen's intestines for the weft and warp, a sword for the sword beater, and an arrow for the pin beater. The
wonren spoke these verses:

A wide r.varp warns of slar-rghter; blood rains fi'om the beam's cloud. A spear-grey fabric
is being spun, r,vhich the friends of Randv6r'.s slayer

are recipients of any form of distinctive cult. The disabl|t is mentioned in some texts as a form of sacrifice or feast in the winter tirne and shows sinriluities with other fertiliry rituals of a ltlore private character. Popular surveys sornetirnes follow Snorri in a hierarchization of diflcrcnt rnythologicai sroups, calling them'higher'or'lower'.The r/isir are often in such divisions proscribed to a lower dwelling - although they rnost certainly playecl a vital part in everyday ritual life and were not without connections to the nurjor uods. Freyja is called uarrudis, the dis of theVanir.The function of the di.slr has been interpreted as protecting the prosperity and good fbrtune of e cerhin place. They are lnore closely connected to the landscape and have a rather pronounced protective aspect than the rnore abstract-fy/gur.The latter are rclated to an individual or fanrily while the former are ntore connected to space. But solne texts do not nrake any diflerence betweer-r disir and.fl,l,qjr.w, since both are guardian spirits in sorue sensc.As n.rentioned above, classifications and taxononiles are not in line with the tone of the texts. There are other nanres for the spirits and deities of a certain place. The larducpttir and the alfar seen:r to have their dweliings close to thc farrnhousc. 'The latter also received a cult, alfabklf, according to sonle texts. As is obvious fiorn their nanle, the landucettir are very closely connected to the land around

will fill out with a red weft.

TIrc warp is woven
rr",ith rvarriors' guts,

with the

and heavilv weighted l.reads of nren.

Spears serve as heddle rods,

spattered with blood; irorr-bouncl is the shed rod, ancl arrows are the pin beaters; rve will beat with swords

out battle web.1a (trans. by Cook 1997:215) l)espite the gruesonre images the poem ends with predictions of victory. It is the destiny of the enernies that is described.The nornir take an active part in the core conflict of the text and in some way they are mastering fate. The r/i-sir constitute another collective of female deities related to both fate rnd prosperity that are hard to distinsuish fronr the-ly{qjur.A uqluain
sasas cotrlcl also be given the nanre .tpldi.s, or fenrale diviner. Oorrtcptrtrtl tigurcs :rrrd rittr:rl :rctivities bccorrre c'losc[y conrrectcc{ in the tr'xts.'l'lrt' r/i.sir .rrc tlrc orrly ()n(' ()l tlrt' tlrrt't' ll11)ul)s rrrcrrtiorrcri lrclt' thrrt

the farnr and the cultivatcd soil. In the quotation above froni F,gi1-s .s4qa Skalla-Cr{msson(1r were noted the flrtal consequences when the spirits abantk>ned a place. In this respect all these beings connected to a clistinct place ilre part of the cosmological and social inside-outside conflict, as pointecl out by Kirsten Hastrup (1981).As protectors these various beings formed a contr:rst to the clear-cut destructive forces fronr outsicle, like the trolls and thcir kind. Nevertheless, there are evil-nrinded disir trtd the wrath of the rii-sir is rrrentioned in Crimnismil 53 and spoken of rvith fuar: if the d{sir are against a l]crson or a family only destruction can follow.The valkyries are occasionally called Odinn's r/i-slr and associated with revenge and struggle. When someone prospered, while others were troubled with setbacks, an r'rplrnation was needed. -li'olld,trrr was Jn irrrportarrt cogrritive cJtcgor) in rn episten.rological systeln where the very existence of such a knowledge protluced an acceptable explanation for public and private incidents.The clusal r.onnections were obvious. Bad iuck could be as perceptible: 'a kind of contlgit'rus nroral disease, spreading lionr inclividual to individual throughout the srrsrr', as l-ars Lonnroth writes about the events in Nil/s -iaga (1976:130).

Tlrc Hrtrntut Stttrl


'l'lre elrly (lhristirrrr rvritcrs of Sc:rrrrlirr:rvi:r tlid rrot :rtklpt tlre ()lcl Norsc tt'rtttirtology firr tlrt' irrrrt'r tlrrllitics ot-lrrurr:rrrs, [rrrt iutnrtltr,'c.l ,r rrt'rv lvorcl sorrl, s,i/, 6rrrtr tltt' Arrglo S,rrorr. l'lris is rluitc trrrtlt'r'st,rrrtl;rlrlr' sirrt t' tlrt' prc


Witdrcraft and Magic in Europe:'fhc Middle Ages

Tiolld6mr in Early Medieual

:rtric to act in the shape of a wolf slccping. fveld-Olfr's own father's



Christian conceptions of hurnan mental capabilities were so radically different frorn the new religion's dogn.ras about the htulan soul. Indeed, they were llot only difGrent, but at sorne points decidedly heretical. The most important discrepancy r,vas the Old Norse belief that a person could leave the ordinary body and act in a tenlporary new shape. This is rrot or1ly the nrost fundanrental assurnption for nrost trolld1rnr stories, but also essential to the conviction that the dead could act fronr the grave with their old personalities.A persont tetnporary split into body and soul is not a specifically Old Norse assumption. For centuries night riders, shapeshifters, and r,vere-animals caused serious debates within the Church about ho.uv to relate to these phenornena and about their ontological status. For the Clhurch Fathers, antollg them Augustine, the crucial qucstion r,vas rvhether the devil hacl such powers that he could appear in any tlngible form, or help evil humans to transfornr thenrselves, only to draw Christians away fronr the true faith. There are two ternrs fundamental to the semantic field of shapeshifting, and

hamr.The Old Norse term lrlgr, often translated just

nteaning than the Christian concept (Alver 191Ib Ilaudvere 1993: 6,1tT.).The r.vord connores personhood, tl-rought, wish and clesire. Sorne people, with a stronq hugr,hacl the capability to act over long distances without n'roving their bodies. L'r the tangible guise of an animal or an object, they could cause harnr while their ordinary bodies lay as if sleeping. The shape adopted for the temporary appearance nrost often revealed the purpose or the nroral status of the sender: a powerful bear, an aegressive wolf etc. Hrigr rvas also applied metaphorically to describe a person's character or temper. Hamr, literally 'skin', was rhe name of the temporary guise the hugr could take for its lrovenlents rvhile perfornring trolld6mr. The ability to change shape and act out of the ordinary body in a new guise was an inborn character or acquired through learning. The materialized will, power or h-rst is a conrnrorl theme in rnany texts. A person rvho was called a lmmhleypa could let tlte lngr leap into a hamr (see below). No absolutely clear distinction can be rnade between a.lylgla on a special nrission, often in a gr-rise characterizing the or,vner'.s intention, and a honu.Techrically it is the sarne kind of appearance.The fornrer is nrore of a rrrythological character while the latter indicates a human. Furthermore, there is a relationship between the hugr and the hom1that is quite different fi-orrr that betweetr the -l)tl,q1a and its owrler. The focus is on the personal rvill when lmnfi'rr\, a travellirrs ursc, is describecl. 1)iffererrt hanlhrir a:ncl were-aniurrrls appear irr seveml appearanccs, r,vhile the .fyl.qia is a ncverchrrrrging svrrrbolic irrrrrgc olirrne r c1u:rlities or spirit. trgill Skrrll;r-( irirrrssorr's qlrrrtltrrtlrcr I(vcld-Lllfi wls c;rllcrl ltitttr,ttrrttrr, rvlrrr'lr ittrlit';rtt'rl tlr;rt lrc ,,vrts :r /r,lri/r/r'yl)(,. AIl)iu'('rrtlv lrc rv;rs tlrorrglrt to [rc
rnr-rch r.vider


as soul, was

Bjalfi, literally'animal skin', what abilities he was supposed to have. The scnealogy of knowledge is a vital thenre in both sagas and rnythological lcxts. Svanr in Njlls saga 1)fr. is also sleepy when it is time for him to contlrrct his shameful deeds.The impiicit message of these characters'fatigue is tlret their strength and powers are far away from their bodies. The hamingja was the shape of a person's fate and is also very harcl to tlitfcrentiate { can show itself to its owner and give hints about tlrc future.The hamingja is closely connected to the notions ofglpra (luck) :r'rtl oce-fa (personal qualities) and to destiny in terms of prosperity. Speaking .l-contact zones,ideas as well as practices must have been transfornted over lrrrndreds of years into hybrids acceptable in a local context: 'This ( llrristian concept Idivine grace] may also have influenced the use of har.nrrruja in the sense of 'luck', for such usage is first attested ir.r clerical sagas ,lt':rling with Christian kings blessed by God's grace.The in-rpersonal hamrvhich we find in the classical family sasas, nlay then be a fur',rr-rja,'lLrck', rlrcr development of this concept', Lars Lcinnroth writes (Lcinnroth 1976: lJ6).'Lr-rck'is one of the 111ost frequent abstract terrns referred to in St ;rrrclinavian folkore collected in the nineteenth century. It was the basic ;,r'crcquisite of the local'econonry of fortunc'. rvhich rrrakes

,.,,r. *rr

in the night when his own body rvas






l'lrcre were nlany nalnes for persons with the capacity to change their
',lr,rpe and temporarily act outside the ordinary body.'Shapeshifters'is used lr,'r'c us an umbrella terrn for a wide rar.rge of characters in Old Norse liter.rtrrrc that were said to have the ability of letting their hugr ieap into a teml),)r'iu-y body or g:uise, hamr, i.e. of being a hamleypa, solreone who ieaps

In many texts the materialized willt deeds are the principal firr lnatters explained by trolld|mr. lrr both rlythologicai narratives and the sagas individuals were givcn '.rr, lr c:rpacities. [t is quite inrpossible to distinguish categorically between rrrt't.rphorical metamorphosis in poetry and mythology and assumed abilirr('\ ()t transforr.nation.'When Egik saga Skalla-Cr'ims-rol?.7/ was discussed rl,ovt' it was briefly n-rentioned that queen Gunnhildr was irritating Egill tlrrouslrrrut the nisht in the sh:rpe of a bird.The ternl hamhlrypa is used in tlrrr p:rrt of thc text btrt it is both inrpi'lssible to cleciclc and uninterestin!J to ',1,('( ul:ltc whcthcr tlrc cprccrr wrrs bclicvctl rrcttltlly to clrerrge hcr shape or rl tlrrs w;rs.jtrst lrrt c;rsily:rcr'cssiblt'irrrrrgc of lr strorrt-l-rnirrdctl w()nl:llr. )iiq/irrqrr.{(r(.r 7 stirt('s tlr,rt ()r)irrrr rv,rs tlrt'firrt'rrrost slrrrpcslriftcr, ctr lrtrrrlr/r'1'|,1. $111;1'1i tclls lr.,r,u' ()r'\ttut il ,lt':t,l or-;rslr't'P r,r,ltilt'lris /rrrgr.,vls
rrrttt tr lmmr.


Witchcra.ft and Magic


Europe :The Middle Ages

Tiolid6mr in Early Medieyal



carrying out diflerent deeds for himself or others in the shape of a bird, an animal, a fish or a serpent. His resular body rvas left behind, only his soul assunred ternporary shapes. This is also the prevalent case in most Old Norse shapeshifting stories. No transformation with a corrrplete disappearance of the ordinary body is told oe sonre part of the body is always left behind. It was thought to be a dangerous moment for the shapeshifter as it gave his or her enernies an opportunrry either to steal or hurt the ternporary body.An analogous stigma would imrnediately appear on the ordinary body. Hduamll refers to Odinn'.s ability to hinder the sor-rls of some night hags (tinridu r) from getting back to their regular bodies when they are carrying out their nightly deeds (Schjodt 1990: 44f{.).

I know a tenth one if I see witches playing up in the air; I can bring it about that they can't nrake their way back
to their own shapes, to their own spirits.l5 (trans. by Larrington 1996 36)
The stanza is cryptic, ts ts Hiuamil, but we can recognize Odinn's supreme
power over tl-re hags by nreans of spells, the spoken word. It is probable that the lines are hir-rting at how vulnerable tl-re shapesl'rifter is when leaving the

body behind for the new guise. This was also the nlortent to strike back against an attacking hamhlcypa. A similarly interesting description of shapeshiftirrg can be found irr the introductury prose of Vqlundarkuida, another poerl of the Poetk Eddd, whereVplundr and his two brothers steal the s'uvan skins from three wornen who are said to be valkyries. Nothing more is said about the captr-rred wornen or their origins.They are forced to rernain in human shape and rnarry the brothers.The rnotif is well kno'nvn from several international fairv tales as well as from later Scandinavian folk legends. Odinn's aggression against knowledgeable wornen is also emphasized irr Hiudmil 1 13 where erotic relations with a -fiolkunni,gri kono are condemned. The rnythological narratives seem to form models for history writing in the sagas where brute force and sexual dominion intermingle in rrrale attenrpts to hinder fernale executions of trolld6mr. A comparable episode can be found in Kormiks -sava chapter 1B where the actions of a shapeshifter, along with the counter actions taken against

l)rotect her farnily honour. In this perspective her curse is the revenge on lrcr sons'r-nurderer.The conflicts escalate and D6rveig pllrsues Kornrlkr to thc sea.The ship is attacked by a walrus that attenrpts to overturn it and l,rirveig is recognized as acting out of her body by her eyes. The men on tlre ship press the animal down under the sudace and at the sanre tinre lr(rrveig, at home, is said to be on her death bed. People around her later tlraw the conclusion that her death was caused by the events at sea.The link bctween the two bodies in this text, symbolized by Kormlkr's recognition of her eyes, is so strong that the human body cannot ward off the injuries rrrilicted upon the rvalrus. A relationship of analog- exists between the \v()nlan and the anirnal * a recurring therue in nrany texts of shapeshifting. 'l he link between them serves both as the tool of trolldltntr and as a possible rrrcthod of revenge. More than D6rveigt act of trollddmr itsel( Korrnikr'.s ( ()unteraction is the core of the episode. He makes use of his knor.vledse of slrrrpeshifting and the analogous link - and so the originally evil action lrlrns out to be the salvation of the attacked.This is a fundamental point rvlrere literary descriptions connect with ritual praxis. Apotropaic attacks ,rsrinst evil-minded shapeshifters, returning dead or assaulting demons are ,rll based on the acceptance of sr-rch a connection between the bodies. stmtegies of this kind are also apparent in later Scandinavian folk medicine ,rs ln obvious recurrent theme. In apotropaic rituals unfanriliar objects are ( ut, torn, or broken while waiting for an unveiling danrage in the neighl,ourhood to appear, and the cause of atliction is thereby found. 'l'he idea of the analogous links was vital to the Old Norse conccptions ttf tr(rlldimr.It provided a theory of how the hu.qr of certain persons could rvork over such long distances and also forn-red the strategy for a possible \v:ry of averting the attack. Seemingly ordinary and harrnless objects could l,e iclentified as carriers of insidious harm', to use Mary Douglas'.s terni for tlrc invisible and contagious peril (Douglas 1992).The attacking objecr was n()t a spectacular ob.lect but something so fanriiiar that it was sonretirDes
lr,rrtl to observe and thereby served as a narrative sr.rrprise. Ari expressive terln of sorne frequency is sendingar, i.e. the figures sent by 1,t'ople with access to a strong hamr,hamrammr.The terr-n explicitly emphasrzes tlre perfbrrr-rative aspect and ritual practiccs o{ troLld6mr,thc activc- per-

lrer, clearly illuminate some vital conditions of the human hugr and shapeshifting. The saga tells of how the cunning won)an D6rveig has laid a crurse on the younu rnan Komr.:rkr. lt is her imrnediate revenge since he has c--attsed the death of l.rer two sol)s as a consequence of ongoing clan conrb:rts. Thc curse will rrnke it irul.rossiblc firr I(orrrt'rkr to lruve his bcloved. lr<irvciljls r'ttrsc :uttl firrtlrcr ;l('ti()lrs ur(' Purt of l llrrgcr l)lttcnr ol conflicts,

Iorrrrances of the sender of a distinct desire. Eddic poetry nrentions ilrlli'rent night-riders, apparently women, moving through the air. These rir)rrrshould be interpreted as night hags acting in a temporary body.Their n.urcs :rssociate thenr with darkness and the night, nq,rkridur artd kueldvidur. llrcy rrrc':rttacked by (idinn as if he hacl the right to punish thenr.There .rrt'st'xunl overt()nes in the wly the god is addressing thenr. It can be noted tlr,rt tlre w()nlrlr) itt liyrlty,qqla -rd(d nlentioned above, who is accused of
rrsirrq lrcr krro'uvlctlgt'to trrkc rcvellgc orr the y()Lu)g tnan'nvho re'jccts hcr, is ,.rllctl Ir,r'/r/rirlr. Mos( likt'ly slrt' wirs itssr.lnlc(l to ltrtrrrtf tltc rttun drrrirrg tlrc

ttot isol:rtctl :rttivitit's.'l'lrc krtrxvlt'tlgr':rIrlc w()nriu) is usirrg lrcr;rbilitics to


Witchuaft and Magic in Europe:Thc Middle Ages

Troild6rnr in Edrly Medieual



night and cause hinr severe damage.When she is summoned it is for being a night hag, rnara.-fhe end of this particular story is that it turns out to be another knowledgeable wornan who is guilty and has rnisused her

Closely connected to the shapeshifters are the nrany categories of returning dead, draugar and aptrgangur (Ellis Davidson 1981;Adalsternsson 1987;Clunies Iloss 1994:247tr.).These could be evil minded persons who could not obtain peace in the grave and appeared hostile and revengefui. The more friendly dead, still close to their families, conte with a mission to lLlfi1 amone the living. Like the/yfuur they give warninus or reveal hidden truths. It was inrportant to obey the advice and hints from the friendly clead. Messages fronr them were treated like replies to divination were. Against the evil dead, actions were often taken that can be compared to the punishrnents for trolld6nr deaths antonJ the living. Returning dead trouble makers were told to be reburied far away and dead associated with trollddrnr could not rest near the living.The gaze of the returning dead was feared as much as the gaze of the evil-nrinded living. The treatment of the dead sives a perspective on the concept ancestor. A11 these activities of the dead indicate that, at least for a tirrte after death, they were thought of as having insight and interest in the world of the living, and having opillions about what was going on.The realms of the deacl are described rather obscurely and most attention in mythological narratives is paid to the afterlife of the fallen warriors in Odinn's dwellings. Returning dead are aiways enconntered and related to in the perspective of the living. As long as they were relnembered they were thought of as acting members of the fanrily with legitirnate reasons to take action. Once again it must be stated that it is difficult and not meaningful to distinguish between'beings'that appear in Old Norse texts, the activirles of the returnin5l dead and the deeds of people supposed to performing trolld|rur. Classification does not take the various textual contexts into con-

lrurrrans and cattle. Like the ridur he rides the oxen and the farmhouse. Finally, alrrrost hke a mara, he kills a shepherd.The bones of the shepherd are crushed and the man is strangled to death. The only way to stop the russaults is to dig the corpse out of the grave with great di11iculry and burn it (ch. 59). Reburving acconlpanied with crentatiorl was a wf,y to stop the

troublesome dead fronr returning. By this nleans an evident barrier (in sonle cases as concrete as a heap of stones) was constructed that marked the bordcr bctwccn the living and the dead.

Knowledge and Destiny:

Trolld6nir Beliefs in the Old

lrlorse WorldVieut

'flie literature of the


Norsenren holds a special position in relation to the texts preserved from other Germanic peopies. In particular, the Old Norse

provide a social background for trolldt5mr narratives that is mostly l:rcking in texts from the Continent.The texts function as social memories; cven if biased and inraginative they rnost often refer to historical persons
rrnd events.

When sumrning up the conceptual base for trolldt5mr beliefi it rnr-rst be stressed once more that, even if odd and conspicuous in details, these .rssunrptions were part of a consistent world view. Socially they were interwoven

with a network of political and social conflicts anlong the

in Iceland.


.rrrd their followers

ln rrrythological narratives, as well as history r,vriting, trolldtimr was a reasonable cause for events past and present. These stories were founded on lrlsic assurnptions about human nature and rnan's relation to history and

with several interesting stories of the dead turning back for di{Ierent reasons. Dorgunna in chapters 50f. shares many characteristics with a trollkon.a.ln her Lfetime she was feared. Foreign and mysterious, she stands outside the network of farnily relations.When dead, she returns naked to ensure that her pall-bearers receive proper hospitality. When not obeyed she makes her will known lrom the other side of the

sideration. Eyrbygqja saga provides us

The ability to acconrplish benefrts outside the ordinary body rt'rluired special knowledge. These extraordinary insights were inborn or It'rrrnt skills, qr-rite difTerent froln the ideology introduced into Scandinavia ,ltrring the epidenric 'witch craze' of the sixteenth and seventeenth cenrrrries.The early modern Continental'witch beliefs'was a hybrid of popul.rr beliefs and learned tradition.The system was introduced by jurists and , lcrgvmen and associated with the legal administration rather than rural rrnintenance. Supported by the dognras of Lutheran ortodoxy it height, rrccl the dualisnr between the realnr of God and that of the devil.The lat(t'r l'recanre apotentate of a magnitude he hardly held during the Middle

brgifotr ('twist foot') in chapter 34 of Eyrbygqla -saga becornes when most troublesonre dead. At the tinie of his cleath he 'nvas deeply involved in conflicts ar-rd it is no wonder that he began to retllrn as a drau,qr. Irr contrlst t<t t lrntttltlcllrt, rrrtm, ()r rrny kirrd ol wcrc-arrirnal rr retttrttittg rlcltl is irrrrrrcdi;rtcly irlcntiiictl rrs ;ur irrtlivitlrr;rl. lr<ilrilfi- :rttlcks

Nevertheless, persistencc r:an be observed over a lonrr, despite drarrrrrtit's<>cial chenscs, lcrr nrerry of thc vital conL:eptiolrs.There are striking srrrrilrrritics bctwcctt ()ld Norsc rrrrldcs ol cxprcssinu trolldt5mr conccptions .rrrtl tirlklorc rt't-orrlirrgs rtrrt'lt';rt tlrt't'rrrl oltht'nirrctecrrth ccntury and the l,r'girtrrirtg o1'tlrt' twt'trtit'tlr. Witlr its t'rrrrrrirrg |coPlc, ('urs('s, urrd';rrrrrws of rlr'slr-ttctiott'il ,rlso slrorvs llrt'Iosilrvt'.rsl)('(ts ot tlrrs lrr'lit'f'systcrrr: lrcrrlirrg


Witchcraft and Magic in Europe:The Middle Ages

practices and protection. When discussing the confrontation between the old religion and the new, Kirsten Hastrup writes: 'But I would argue that even if the heathen faith is depicted through a learned Christian's concepts of right and wrong, we can legitimately cotrpare the structures of the two thought systems, as these are thought to be more persistent than surface


Tio11d6 n1r Rituals: Practice and Performance

the conversion ro Chnstianiry' (I981: 68). Scandinaviart trolld|mr conceptiorls were deeply embedded in a rural world dependent on farming, fishing and 1-runting. Tiolldt5mr and its domains were a form of ritualization of the constant threat of fanrine and crop failure. As we will see in the following chapter, however, the enrphasis in Old Norse stories about trollddmr was not so rnuch on conceptions, as on concrete acts, rrerningar.
phenomena, such as

l{cligron is by no means onlv a cognitive category. Religion is ro most peoplc, past and present, a lived experience acted out in physical motion. Faith is
('\pressed in actions and attitudes that cannot be defined as either exclusively ..rt'red or solely profane. I{eligion is not limited to any distingurshable realm ,rf'l'roliness. Many religious activities rnay tppear trivial and common, yet ('\press concepts that are vital for how individuals understand their world.

In Old Norse one single word, sidr, comprised the wide field of reiiriiorr, faith, moral, custom and tradition. It included both what were supl)()sed to be traditional conceptions and also the way things were thought t,r lre done.The rnultitude of meanings gave this term a wide range of pos.rble usage: cognitive and practical as well as juridical and religious. The tt'rrn certainly had a ser-nantic field of great variety.Actions done, planned ,,r'onritted in connection with trolldtimr are sornctirnes conunented on in llr(' texts as being opposed to -sidr, which is then the appropriate n1ode. Sid/ rs :rlnrost always used as sontething positive, with a certain accentuation on rvlrat is directly expressed.The concept is thoroushly based in the old lore ,rr(l customs, and therefore reliable. The word often appears in contexts rvlrcre the question of lcelandic identity is crucial, with positive references to the old days. However, the term was adopted by Christian authors in \r:rrrclinavia during the processes of Christianization and here the religious ,rsl)cct wa( exclusively stressed. As cliscussed in the previous chapter, even if a strictly structuralist interl,r('tltion is highly debatable, there is a certain conflict between the social ,rnrl the antisocial, order and chaos, inside and outside, as an apparent theme rn trclld6mr myths, sa5Jas, texts, and even in early Christian laws. Likewise, in t rtrt;rls trolldt5nt tnd extraordinary knowiedge function symbolically as a link lrt twcen chaos and structure.This irnage of the struggle for knowledge can , ,,r'respondingly be noted in the ciescriptions of ritual practice.'W'hen con',r,lt'rins rituals a sirrrplc nrorlel can be :rpplied, which regards them basically .r\ ,r ('onrl)unicutit>rr irr t'nvo difk'rent directions, likt' two axes: horizontal and r','r.lir'rtl.-llrt'vertic:rl direction is pcrh;rps tltc tttost obvious one: here rituals (.ul [)c scert ls ttt:ttt'.s tlcsirt' t() (-()nlnlr.ulic:rtc r,vitlr srrpr:rlrtrrn:tt-t reahns in

\l)('('[lIi()rt ot'sorttt'kirrtl ot'rt'sporrsc. l]rrt ritu:rls rrrt'irr rrrost ('lscs ilnportlnt

wcll.'l'lrt'y rvor-k ltot-izont.rlly,rrrtl t'sl,rlrlrslr lrurrr;rn Iricr:rrclrics .rrrtl irlt'rrtitit's lrtst'rl ort tltt' so,i.rl otrlt'r', rir)1. ( )rr llrt' ollrt'r- lrrrrttl. :rrt
'.ot i:tl cvcttts;rs



Witdwaft and Magk in

Europe :The Middle Ages

Trolld6mr in Early




exclusively communicative approach to rituals limits the possible interpreta-

tions of then.r rvhen



to the construction of


In a ritual

powers are let loose that the human society nrust keep in control. A ritual, as discussed by Paul Connerton, can be defined as a'rule-gov-

erned activiry of a synrbolic character rvhich draws the attention of its participants to objects of thought and feeling which they hold to be of special significance' (Connerton 1989: 41).lt is a wide definition where other than solely religious dirnensions of ritual life also have a given place. Politrcal,juridical and economical conditions are inseparably linked to preChristian rituals.There were no rules in a fornral sense for rituais,bllt a certain established practice seenls to be at hand in Old Norse literature.'We can read horv power relations were established and socially rnaintained at local gatherings and feasts.The political and reli.gious leader,godi, invited his men to peform a llftir (offering) of vital importance to the local cornrnunity. In saga texts the bl6t is often represented in a royal or aristocratic context and is ernphasized as being the nrost important ritual event. Despite the narrative grandeur, the bl6t offerings see1.n to have been strongly related to the basic needs of a rural community and to have followed the cycle of the seasons. On the same occasions pirigs r'r,'ere held where oaths were sworn, conflicts were solved, and econonric transactions were estabLshed. Within this context it was the responsibility of agodi to arrange for a public L/dr ritual.But there were other important ritr.rals even closer to agricultural living conditions, focusing on future prosperiry and fertility. These activities have not always been defined as ritr,rals, but as we shall see from sorne examples they certainly fulfil the criteria of Connerton'.s definition. Nor do the texts give any clear distinction between actions related to divination, healing, dream interpretation or cl-rrses and other destructive deeds. The descriptions of trolld|mr as ritual practice cover a wide range of different text types, fronr rather elaborate descriptions of performances in the saga literature to simple and bald activities like single words uttered. These cerenronies do not seenl to confirm any social hierarchy in the same sense that bk5t rituals did; ntuals relating to hidden knowledge had a much more ambivalent character and sometimes openly contested prevalent authority. When divination was performed the outcorne of the cerenlony was in nlost cases in the hands of the perfornrer.Yet prominent landowners :rppear to have been obliged to arrange lbrmalized fortune-telling events, and the result was not always in tune with his intentions.

trying to understand the difTerent aspects <>f trollddmr. The ternr in many divergent contexts, although the corpus of texts related to is quite limited (Strornblck 1935;I)illmann 1992; I)r-rBois 1999).1r' In 'r'ir)r tlrc broadest sense seidr is a technique for gaining knowledge about the liltrlre or trying to change the options for events to conre.The intention of tlrt'act cor-ild therefore be nralevolent as well as beneficial.Thus, the use of tlr('ter1l1 seidr does not per se give any indication of which was the case. Sirrce the sagas always tell a highly subjectivc story ir is not possible to ,lr.:rw any sharp distinction between what'uvas regarded as good or evil lrrrn different points of view.A scidr act to protect a ntember of one's fam.rl)pears

rly is v'ewed as an outrage by his or her opponents. Calling antagonists and ,'rrcrrries nanles like -reidmat)y, seidkona had an or.ninous tone and was an


Sei&: lror IJcttL'r orWorsc

St'idr is otte of ttlttty worrls trscd for ('ust()nr :rrttl pr:rxis irr t'orrrrcr't.iorr witlr pc'rs()r)s of't'xtr-:rorrlirrrry krrorvlt'tlgc. lt is pt'rlr;tps tlrr' nrost ( ('lltl':tl rituirl,

lIi't'tivc forrrr olt de[rluation. Some thernes in the descriptions of scidr are recurrent, though in sonre vrt:rl aspects they are very contradictory. A major difference concerns rvlrcther the texts express any Christian opposition to the ritual activities .r' r)ot. In some sagas the pagan-Christian conflict is en-rphasized as a major tlrt'rrre, r,vhile in other sagas -scidr is regarded tnore as a corllnunal local tra,lrtion, as the sidr of old tirnes. It is a crucial question whether to regard the ','ir)r ceremony as occasional and sporadic or as a ritual practice profoundly rrrrqr';rined in the rural livins conditions of pre-Christian times. The texts rrrrght slrggest that the per{ormance of -seidi,, as a recurrent ritual, was ( .,\('r)tial for the welfare of local conrnunities. Many of the texts set the ;,,'r'firrnrer in an atmosphere of exoticisnr, which of course affects the rnlcrpretation.'Was this a way for the saga authors to accentuate the pauan , lr,rr:rcter of the rituals. or are the exoticisnts to be read as if the rituals rrt vt'r- tc>ok place, or were products of pr.rre fantasy, or the conventional lit, r.rry ruotifs of the tinre? ,\r'ir)r is a conlplex tenn used in rtrany contexts in Old Norse literature, rllt'r.ring to a rrultitude of practices perfornred in an attempt to intervene in tlr( ('vcnts of the near futr-rre.Judging f}om the way the ternr is represented rrr st'vcml texts, the cerenrony seenls to have been a ritr-ral event of some rnrl)()rtallce. It is described as an act of clivination, predicting the futr-rre and rlr, lrrtc, not only of individuals, but of a whole local cornmunity. It also rrrr lutlcd foretelling the weather ancl prosperity for the coming season.The ,, r('nr()ny wns concluctecl by a person with spccial skills and knowledge,ancl rr nriu)y cases by the reqtrcst of ln irrdivicil,ral r>r a group. Scidrcor-rld be perl,r1 1111',.1 firr thc protcr'tion of lr furnily nrerrrbcr, to danrage an enenly, or as a r, tttrtttcnttivc fortrtttc tcllirrg ^Scir)r wrrs r firll ccrcrrrony of sorne lencth, with (,r(' ()l' tttorc llcrfirrtttcrs rvlto lrr'tctl to ir grcilI cxt('r)t irr fhtrrt of lrr attclience, rrr,l ,tt'ttlrtlittg to tt'rt;titt s.r{:rs v:rt-ious kirrtls ot't'tltriprrrt'r)t wct'c rrscd. lrr , onlt',lst to /r/ril littrrrls,.ir'ir)r rvrrs st.nri PrrIrlir' rrrrtl its t't]i't't tlrt. torrr.t.rrr ot-:r ',rrt,tllt't !lt'()(tl). (.ottt t'Itiotts ,tl trolltl,trttt lirt rrrt'tl llrt' Ir,rsrs ol llrt' ir,it)t ritrrtrls irr


Witchua_ft and Magic

in Europe:'l'he Middle


Tiolld6mr in Early Medieual



the sense that they assurned certain persons'extraordinary knowledge and abiliry to pass the limits of ordinary perception.

The Mythirul Oru3ln of Seidr

lrrisht one', is related to Freyja, the matron of the Vanir, 'uvho, Snorri the one that originally taught the art of seidr to the Asir. The s^rnle source tells that seidr was customary anlonJ the Vanir. Margaret ( llunies Ross has discussed at length the position of Gullveig within 'rwo rrnjor semantic fields with the don-rinant operative rnetaphors of masculin, l.rirrrs, was

Seidr is performed both in the mythological narratives and in the sagas as a process for gaining knowledge from outside the baianced structure and order. No details of the ritual processes are described in the rnyths. The

rtv and femininrry' Q9()4:187).

mythological genealogy of sci dr and its perforrners anlong the gods is an intriguing correlate to the narratives of the sagas. Seidr is given a position as an institution within an ideological framework. A n-rore complicated issue is whether there exists a mythicai model for the social order
expressed in the rituals; or myth and ritual at all. When question.
Vqluspd, the most conrplex of al1 Eddic poerrls, reveals the history of the universe from creation to apocalypse in 66 stanzas. The poet has put the words in the mouth o{ a ugLua, a prophetess claiming to have access to clandestine knowledge older than the universe itself.The uplua is speaking otT and on in the first person addressing men and gods. Obviously she has the insight into how to spd, to disclose what is concealed in the past and the present. In the text seidr is said to be per{ormed at dilTerent significar:rt phases of the progress and decline of the universe. In the very first stanzas of the poern, i.e. the uglua's invocation, the wise wornan is claiming authority by knowledge from before tinre, when she was raised and nurtured by the giants. Wrthout this connection to the demonic forces the crertion nlyth cannot be told. Order is established to distinguish Midgardr from the chaotic otherworld. Tinre, days and seasons are structured along with a model for the good life, including &/rit rituals.Then, suddenly, in the nriddle of the creation myth three maidens from the realn.r of the giants appear. Nothing is told o[their mcssasc or rnission, and rrraybe ihe narrative purpose of their appearance is to rernind the listener/reader that Midgardr is surrounded by destructive forces. Imr-nediately after the uglua's version of the creation myth, another two females with fatal ambitions are introduced. The appearance of Gullveig and Heidr (the latter a narne conl-

if it


there is any obvious relation between to trolld6rnr this is a fundar-nental

The middle part of the poem refers to a war antong the gods, between two grollps named,lEsir andVanir.The text in this passage is obscure, prob.rbly corrupt. The origin of the rivalry is unclear, but broken oaths and li'rrud are designated.The conflict turns ol-rt to be the beginning of the end, w.qrmrpk,and seidr is said to be used successfully by theVanir in the struggle .rsrirrst the ,4sir, and with their powerful galdr songs they turn or-rt to be rrrrclefeatable.Although Odinn, the leader of the,4,sir, is usually acknowl..'dsed as the nraster of seidr, these stanzas indicate that this art originated .uuong theVanir. Further on in the complex structure of conflicts scidr is trscd again. Once dissension is there, the successive devastation of harmony .rrr,l order is rnevitlblc. 6dirm is seeking the assistanc e of a uqlua before the final battle, i.e. the tlcstruction of the world, ragnargk. Apparently he is paying the uglua for Ircr divination with jeweller.v. A similar situation opens another Eddic l)()en1, Baldrs draumar, where Odinn wakens a uqlua from the grave to rlrrestion her.A uglua gling valuable advice to the living from her grave rs also at hand in the opening of Cr1galdr. Vqluspd gives a hint of the krrowledgeable womant technique: it is stated that she is sitting out in tlre wilderness,lT probably making an iltiseta, seeking solitude ro obtain visions. Her vision is lucid, although frightening. A11 she can see is v;rlkyries and destruction. The uglua is briefly telling of the death of lirrldr, the fina1 sign of the coming end. The following stanzas, 31-2, ,lcscribe the beginning of ragnargk, extended in Snorri's prose text { )yfi'apinning (33-5) .It rnust be noted, as (llunies Ross does in her extensivc analysis, that when destruction conres into the arena of the history ,rf the universe, it is also the introduction of active fen-rinine agents (()lunies Ross 1994, esp. 187ff.).The way seidr is described in Vqluspi ,r('centuates not only the conflict between Otgardr and Midgardr but .rlso the one within the category of gods; and the quest for knowledge as vit:ll fbr the balance of cosmos. The gods are dependenr on the knowl.'tlqc fror-n the world of giants and trolls as a necessity for development, .rrrd still its origin is seed of the end. Nevertheless, the evah-ration of 'r'i r)r throughout Zqrlrr.s1ll is rr.rore rlr less positivt:. Even though the fr-rture ,rs sccn by tlrc 1,qr/r,,r is rlrrrk it is enrlrhlsizccl as u 1'rowcrful rrrcthod of divtttrttiort, l)()t prinlilrily :r tct'lrrritlrrc firr rlcstruc-tiorr.'l'lris lppllrcllt lnrbigtrlly llt'twt'ctt ttt't t'sst(V rrtt,l (l('stru( ti()t) rs 1r11'y,;11r.'r,1 tlrr-ouglr<lrrt tltc ItoIItlr\tttt- ttrrr-r-;rlivr's oI Ilrt' s,rr,,,rs Ioo.

monly given in Old Norse literature to women conducting clestructrve deeds, 'witches') leads to an escalation of the conllicts and the text indicates a conflict between the gods themselves,'the first war in the world' (Clunies Ross 1994: 203ff .).The rrrythological position ancl status of these two characters is a topic for cliscussion. Heidr is also calle rl 1,91m arrd lier techniclue .scidr; apperently shc is willirrg to tcach vit'iorrs w()nl('n how to predict tltc frrtrrre, s7rri, in ortler to rri:rkr' llrt] thirrgs rvorst'. I It'r rr:rnrt','tlrt'


l,Vitchcra-fi and Frc

Magic in Europe:Tlrc Middlc Ages


Tro11d6mr in Early Medieual



y.j a

The Prime Seidkona

Odirn, Mythical Chicftain antl Master rt'seidr

( )<)inn is the most complex of the Scandinavian 5;ods, contradictory in .rl)pearance and ambiguous in character (Lindow 1985; Mitchell 1993).le I'he eod plays an important part in the nrythical history of the universe, a ;,osition that is especially enrphasized in the account of the creation of the rvtrrld in the Pttctic Edda as well as in Snorri'.s Edda.Odinn is described as lr.rving an active part in the creation of the world and is repeatedly called l.rther or lord of the other gods. He is presented as aristocratic, called'the lrishest', and acts as a ruler, with a special relation to the warriors and r'.rlkyries atValhqll; he is referred to as the chieftain of nren and gods and lus chvellings in Midgarilr seem to be the middle of the world. On the ,l.rrker side of the represer-rtations of Odinn are death, dying and the realnt ,,l the dead. These various aspecrs are arnalganuted with the image of t )r'\inn as the god of poetry and wisdom.The supreme god is said to be the rr.rster of the spoken word and as such in control of ultir-nate knowledge.

The process of passing on the knowledge of scidr appears to be of particular interest in some texts. Snorri refers to the nrvthological origin of seidr inhis Ynglingd sdgd, the nrythical history of the Swedish kings, tracing their genealogy back to Odinn himself. The source of his knowledge is said to be the gods of fertility.When connected with theVantr seidr is not associated with poetry or old-tinre rvisdonr. Freyja taught the art of seidr to the Asir.18 In this part of the text nothing about technique or what constiturtes -scidr is rnentioned; if anything the focus is on the interplav between the Asir and theVanir. Clunies I{oss has errrphasizecl the similarities in rnythological ftrnction between Gullveig in Vqluspi and Freyja in Ynglirrga (1991:2()3f .). Both texts indicate that -ieidr is a skill iacking among the A,sir and it rnust be captured frorn the Vanir or the giants. Although desired, it is obviously referred to rvith strongly negative connotations. Other texts concisely call Freyla spidis or Vanadis. By giving her these names the connection between Vanir, fertility and different aspects of trolldtimr rituals is accentuated (N:isstrorn 1995).This is a reasonable connection since the divinatory aspects of -icidr are strongly connected to luture prosperity. Yet clandestine knowledge and divination abilities were not assumed to be inborn qualities among theVanir either. In the Eddic poenr Hyndluljid a conflict between Freyja and the uphtaHyndla is referred to.The goddess is addressing Hyndla as if awakening her, calling her'sister'and thus clairn-

)r'lth and poetry tend to internringle in the irrrage of the wise Odinn. l'lrc god's.harsh qr,rest for knowledse is synlbolically shown in different ',tories of C)dinn's self-sacrifices, when parts of his own body are sacrificed rrr cxchange for knowledge and runes. [n these texts the god of death is

ing some kind of affinity (Hyndlull<1d 1). But the vqlua's answers are quite aggressive. Hyndla gives a long genealogy of various rnythological beings and in stanza 33 she mentions the origin of uqlur, and classifies them anlong knowledgeable people, seldr perfornrers and giants. There is no ntention of gods, but instead Freyja'.s helper is rel:rted to the destructive inhabitants of the outside world. In Snorri',s Ynglin,qa saga 1,0 Freya is said to be the last sr.rrviving of the old gods and the last to keep up the old fornr of sacrifices.This comment could be compared to the imase of the age-old uglud n Vgluspi, and elsewhere, being the last with knorvledge of the old lorc. Ynalinga -sa3a is not printarily a collection of myths, but a historical narrative in rvhich Snorri places the gods as agents in the dawn of tirne. As will be notcd further on in this chapter, it is not unusual that -scidr perfi>rnters lre saicl to be the last of their kind. In many texts the prototype of thc uqrllr,l seenrs to be a very old wonran, as a personification of agerolcl si<)r.

'l'he nrost well-known scene is perhaps when Odinn is hanging in the rvrrrrlswept tree, usually interpreted as Yggdrasill, sacrificing himself to lrrrrrself, being both subject and object of the act (Schjodt 1993). Odir,, lr,rrrss for nir-re days and nine nights, withor-rt food or water.According to llitnrnil 13U*44, he fasts and suffers, in a forrl of iltiscta in the wilderness ont' cillt assume, tormenting his body as a prepJration to receive knowl,,lr1e.'fhis and other poenls strongly stress that the prize for wisdonr is a lrrrilr one.A certain enrphasis on direction is also apparent; knorvledge is , .rllctl up fron.r below. Wounded by a spear, he is receptive to powefful rurrt's that he is able to bring up. Frorlr these Odinn becomes wise,-ftidr, rrrtlr:rccluired abilities to heal and to curse. In the opening section of r ;titrtrrisnril the god, disguised as the wanderer Grimnir, is sitting between tr'rr fircs to prepare himself for the rvisdor-n duel with rhe jqtunn kinu offering of his eye in another variant of the wisdom-quest tlrt rrrt' is relatecl to tl.rc lnyth about the'uvise Mirnir and takes us back to tlr,' r'orrHict betr,vecrr Asir lnrl Vanir. Yrr.g/irLgd sqqd 7 recounts that Odinn l,rrnss Mirrrirls head with hirn:rn11 that it lus tcllc'l hinr abotrt evcnts iu .tlrr'r'lvorlcls.'l-'lrcrc :rrc rlitli,rcrrr versiorrs of the nryth olMirrrir, br_rt it is .rlrr',rvs rcl:r(crl to tlrc r,v;rr l)etw(.cl'r tlre goris:rrrtl tlrc cxchrrrrge of hostages. i\, t ottltttg to Sttot't't's :r('(()unt irr ) rrg/irrq,r .\(r(.r -+ tll('Vrrrir bctruyccl by tlr, It',rtt'ilgr('('r)r('nt. Mirrrrl tlt'r-rrlrrtltcrl ;rrrtl lris lrcrrrl w:rs scr)t blr.k to
( ,t irrodr-( )r)irrnls

irrs death hirnself.


Witchcra;ft and Magic

in Europe:The Middle


Trol1d6mr in Early Medieual




the ,4'sir frorn the Vanir where he had been kept hostage. Odi.r.t is said to have enrbah-r-red it with herbs and galdr soogs, and spoken rvith the head in tirnes of danger.The head is used technically in two ways according to the myths: as a tool for divination when Odinn speaks with Mimir's head shortly before ragnargk (Vqluspi 46 Ynglinga saga 4,7), or in scenes where Odinn is drinking from Mirnir's well to acquire knowledge (Vqluspi 28; Gylfaginning 8). Mimir, or rather the representation of his wisdom, and his liminal position as a hostage and as a giant among the gods, syrnbolize the point of connection between order and destruction. Llke Vpluspi, Ynglinga s4g4 stresses that seidr originates from the Vanir and that Mimir has an-inrportant position in the process. But it is Odinn who is hailed as the master of seidr in the following chapters of the saga. By perforrning seidr Odi.r, can make his enemies blind and deaf in battles, or paralysed with fear and their weapons useless, while his own men, filled with fury and strength, can take part in the battle without armour. This

through love magic. Hiuamil tells of very much rhe same rl,rlitics as does Ynglinga saga 6 and 7.The utmost aim of the skills is gainilrri l)ower over other individuals. The san-re assisting purpose is stressed tlt<', trLtlltl6mr rituals are reported in sagas as being executed by humans. llrt'senealogy of seidr continues from the gods to the world of humans. 'rrr.r'r'i tells in Ynglinga saga 7 of how odinn taught mosr of his skilis to the ',.r, rrticial priests, bh5tgodar. They were second to him in knowledge,


of wild

rage anlong the nrythical warriors is called


Seemingly it is related to the shapeshifting theme: the conception that certain people and nrythological creaturcs can maintain tentporary operations in the guise of an animal. Snorri tells that 'Odinn shifted shape and lay as if sleeping or dead, appearing as bird, or animal, fish or snake, and in a moment he could go to to renlote places on his own or other's business'. And he 'could put out fire, calrn, the,sea, and turn the wind with his words'.20 Further on in Ynglinga saga Odinn'.s abilities due to access to knowledge achieve what is irnpossible for.others. Moreover, Odinn is said to be the foremost shapeshifter and to have the ability to appear in different guises. Shapeshifting is a weighty theme in

,,,rrlisrrred in motion.The poem is no manuai, but a poetic application of tlr, tirrru genre. The last group of rtlnar mentio.ed in this catalogue is rrrrrr,l rrlnes' (hu,gninar), described in rhe cryptic style of the Eddic lays:

t )rrc of the heroic poems of the Poetic Edda, Siqrdr{fumil,provides a catan1'gnomic poetry close to the elaboration in Hiuairdt (Larrington l't'ti; I\ar-rdvere 1998). The wise Sigrdrifa, categorized as a varkyria, ,r',rructs the young hero Sigurdr by means of powerful charms.Viciory, lr' 11;11u and wisdom is pro,rised if her advice, rid, is kept. The stanzas 1',n, rr in the poem are hardly forr.nulas as such, rather sententious phrases, , r, rr thongh the mode of forrnulating the advice has a distinct riiualized , lr.rr.rt ter.'w'ords are always followed by acting: what is verbally expressed is

It,',tltikr, and insights,fiqlkynngi. Many orhers learned from this a.d the of trolld6mr became widespread and continued for a long tinre.

trollddnu stories and also a continuous thenre in later Scandinavian folklore.The myths of self-sacrifice and the journeys symbolically confirnr that essential knowledge is to be gained outside Midgardr

Hroptr IOdinn] inrerpreted rhem, cut them, thor-rght them out, lrorn that liquid which had leaked frorn the skull of Heiddraupnir ['Brighr Dropper,] and from Hoddrofnirt ['Hoard-tearer'] horn.21 (trans. by Larrington 1996: 168)
()cndL:r and the Peyformance

Old Norse

ry'seidr in Mythological


and that the border to the realm of the giants must be crossed. In nrythological geography the border in between is symbolically marked by art irnposing sea and a serpent. Few rnyths lack the conflict between the two opposing realms. Journeys into the other world or visits to its borderlancl are essential to achieve the advantages sought.Assisting himself or others is also tlre therne of the final part of Hiuamil, the so called'Lj6datal', where Odir., in eighteen galdr songs praises his own abilities (Larrington 19c)3: 62tT.).The god of poetry and knowledge speaks in.the first person, givirrg a long catalogue of powerlul skills. L-itid, the sonqs ()dinn is in charge ot, ir far fronr the suffering depictecl ir Hivdrn,il 13tlfI. arrcl Orirrrrrismil l . 'l'lrc
perspecti'r,e is that of helpinu lncl :rssistrrrs lnd l t'r:rfty uotl rtppcurs wlttt has lcccss to lrt';rlirrg wourrtls, protct-tiort ;rguirtst cttcntics' ltttlcks, Pttttittl{ otrt flre, r'llrrrirl-I tlrt'st':r, nrisirrg tlrc tlt'rrrl, itt:rkittr{ l)('r's()l)s irrvtrlrrt'rrrlrlc rttttl

I lr\ililt.

llrr,l,,rrlrtcclly nlost Icela,dic skalds were men, their audience was to a l'r, .rr ('\tcnt nrale, and it was nren who copied the nranuscripts when writrr rr ,rrrl kcpt the,r - even if there are examples of learnid nuns i, the l,,l.rrr,lit' (and other Sca,dinavian) r-,onasteries. Sigrclrifa hardly speaks on 1,, lr.rll .t- worneu or cxprcsscs lny particular fenrale wisdom, and the r', ('r\'('r'of-her aclvice is a rrrarr.The way she is portraved in the poern, she lrl,lll' rrrirrors lrurrr:ur fi'rrr:rles, brrt rether wisclorrr beyond eveiyclay life, rrr,l slrt' rs tlcpicted ls ()nc ol tlrc v:rlkyries, the rrr:rirlcns serving close to

Ilrr' t;trt'sriorr wlrctlrct'tlrr'Pcrfirrlrrurrt't'ol'.rr,ir)r in ( )lrl tcxts is.r sPctifit ll('tivrty lr:rs rt't't'rvt'tl rrr;rrry tlilli.n'nl ,ur\\\,(.r.s.'l lrt. rt.lltirlrr lrr t\rt'r'il tlrt' rrrvtlrologir':rl tt'xls ,rrr,l llrr, rrrt,rr. rt..rlrs(r( \.rr,,,rs is .urotlrt,r
r', n(l('r


WitchuaJt and Magic in Europe:The Middle Ages

Tiolld6mr in Early Medieual




cornplicated question

in this context. Do the texts fornl

a protorype or

paradigm of the seidr performer with relevance to actually performed rituals? The implications of the stated nrythological genealogy of seidr are hard to specify when trying to corne to ternls with this complicated nratter. As seen above, seldr is described in some texts as originating from the Vanir, but Odirrn is represented as the master of seidr in many others. Whether this mirrors a social conflict about the ritual responsibilities of rnen and women in the Old Norse world is highiy questionable. As FranEois-Xavier Dillmann has shown, when counted in the sources, men

)dinn is compared to a uplua who, like Saami or Siberian shamans, uses a drum (ubtt) and is called both argr and uitki,i.e. performer of trolld1mr. Other lrcldic poer"ns give the image of the seeker of wisdom as afflicted, and lrccause of that - not despite it - as the greatest of seidr per{ormers. Most )ther texts on seidr do not mention ergi/ argr at all, but emphasize Odirrr, "t tlrc wisest of gods and the master of poetry without any hint of sexual


and wonren appear equally often as practitioners of trolld|mr (19U6). Ynglinga saga 7 comments on Odinn's interest in and practice of seidr as ergi, a terr.n often translated as an indication of 'unrnanliness'and also given the sexual interpretation,'hontosexual'.To perform seidr was supposed to be shameful for men and the art was taught to the priestesses.22 In fact this statement points in the opposite direction to the enrphasis sometimes laid
as a specifically fernale knowledge overpowered by the principal rnale god (Kress 1993). In Snorri'.s genealogy of seidr the knowledge and skills seern to have been mastered by the supreme god and later handed over to vaguely described fernale ritual perforn.rers. Interestingly enough a paragraph sonre lines further on keeps up the thenres of power, knowledge and trollddmr, and states that these beneficial skills were passed on to the D/tir (sacrifice) priests. The priests were second

upon seldr

to Odinn in foresight and knowledge.23 Instead of rnaking negative rernarks on seidrthis part of the text connects the important social position of a hl(ttgodi with Odinn and his extraordinary abilities.The passage has not received half as much attention as the crgi part, but there is nothing that indicates any inferior relevance. These two very different statements in the same text can serve as an indication of the arnbiguous attitr-lde with regard to seiiir expressed throughout Old Norse iiterature, and not necessarily as mirrors of ritual practices. Nevertheless, it is the former paragraph that is referred to and discussed in most handbooks and surveys.
Lokasenna ('Loki's Quarrel') 24 in the Poetic Edda also uses the ternrinology ergi/argr (noun,/adjective) in relation to Odinn and seidr.When read ottt of its context it must be remetnbered that the stanza belongs to a longer


of verbal defanration pronounced by Loki towards the


gods. One accusation more enrbarrassing than the other conres over Lokils sneering lips to many of thenr with erotic allusions.To (ii)inn he says:

'But you once practisccl




anci you beat on thc druur us witchcs r1o, in the likcncss r>f u wizunl you.jotrrrrcyctl

:ttttottI rrtrtrtkirrtl,

lrrtl tlrrrt I tlrotrglrt tlrt'lr;rllrrrrrlk ol-;t [rt't'vt'rt.']l

lry L:rt'ritrgtott l()()(r:

There is no sexual activity or erotic synrbolism expressed in the seldr It is debatable to what extent the connection between homo\r'xuality and ergi/ argr should be taken (Meuiengracht Ssrensen 1983; Kress l')()0, 1993; Sayers 1992). Instead Carol Ciover has stressed the moral .rslrect of the term: cowardliness (Clover 1993). She raises the question to \vllat extent categories like woman, man, fernale and male are relevant for .rrrrrlyses of interhuman actions in the Old Norse world, loaded as they are rvith our own understandings of the terms. Instead, she points to 'a sex1i,'rder system rather difTerent from our own, and indeed rather different lrorrr that of the Christian Middle Ages'(Clover 1.993:364).Thereby she r)l)ells up a more fundamental discussion about gender as an analytic tool rrr ()ld Norse studies.To attract their audience the sagas and the Eddic lays Ir.rd to be good and entertaining narratives.2SAs verbal art they were stuctrrlcd around'a systern based to an extraordinary cxtent on winnable and lrrsrrble attributes' Clover 1993:379).The tension between normative dis( ()rrrse and social reality was obviously a narrative possibility.What could l)('nrore effective than calling the aristocratic lord of the gods and warriors ,rrrrrranly? As part of social interaction a certain negotiation with the defirrrtions of male and fernale and the construction of gender-specific qualilr( s was at hand.There is an apparent gender system expressed in the texts, rr rth norrns and rules. But it cannot be read apart from other systems of lrrt'rrrrchy to do with social status and age. Positioning norms within hier.rrr'lries was a basic way of describing persons as well as a tooi of social rrr,rrripulation. Movable categories, attributed to nten and women, were ,rr)('()f lnany ways for a writer to heighten the ternperature of the plot and rrr.rkc surprising turns more plausible (Clover 1993:372).'fhe gender roles rrr ()ld Norse texts are closely connected to the narrative structure and the ' r('.rtion of interesting fiction. l)reams, visions, sudden bad luck, seidr divrrr,rtior.r and the like must also be seen from the perspective of the narrative , rle s of the respective genre. ' I lelsa Kress holds a radically different opinion. She has several tinres rrritrctl that a pre-ohristian fcnrllc oral culture, in which worrrenls arts and Itlct'rttttre flotrrishccl, wts cruslrcd by thc nrlle literate (lhristi:rrr [-atin culrrrrt'(l(rcss 1990, l()()3).'lir ltt:r tht'tt'xts of-.r'r'ir)r lrrt,.l lrolldt\rttr bcur witrrcss ttr r lr.rttlc bctwccrr tlrr' st'xt's, wlrt'rt' w()rrr('n :rrc tlrt' r'cPrcscrrt;rtivcs ol a

r('r'r('ssing r'rrltrrrt.. | )csPitt. tlrr. otrit,r'liorrs r-;riscrl ;rg:rirrst :r sirrrplistit. rrrotlcl ot'


Witchcrdt and Magic in Europe:The Middle Ages

Trolld6rnr in Early Medieual



the relation between textual imagery in nrythologicai narratives and existing social conflicts, a certain pattern is visible in the texts concerning the genealogy of seidr.In various narmtives gender does play a vital part in the construction of conflicts, along with other significant markers of 'otherness'.The seidrperformerwas an outsider in one way or the other.But the fringed position of the performer was not exclusively marked by gender. As we shall see in the examples fronr the sagas,the otherness of the seldr performer was marked in various ways, among them a quite complicated interplay between gender roles and social status. Characters were givcn a marginal position when described as connected to trolldimr and seidr. Being a woman is surely not a marginal position as such, but certain scenes in the sagas focus on wonren acting in a way they usually did not, that is, outside the conventional limits of supposed female behaviour.

The Tiddition of Seidr as a Diuination Ritual in the Sdga Literature

I)re-Christian Scandinavian nrythology reveals a great interest in questions of fate and destiny. In urgent situations there is often, even among the gods, a desire to control the future, or at least to have knowledge of it. Accounts of seidr in the sagas express the same interest in future events and reflect a social background to the cerenronies and a dependence on farming, fishing, and hunting. At the same time, divination and trolld6mr are always part of a narrative strategy contructed by the author. Seidr is said to be conducted either for the benefit of the acting person herself, but more frequently it was a cerenrony otTered by a more or less professional per{ormer to assist a recipier-rt in need of support. It served as an act of divination to be conducted by a person who was conceived to be 'of great knowledge', which was the lnost conlmon phrase of all in relation to trolld|mr. The scholariy interest concerning rituals has, to a large extent, been focused on the communal sacrifices, b/dr, whereas -seldr has been classi{ied as socially more marginal. On the cor.rtrary, seidr could be put in the centre, ernphasizing the ritual as an important act of divination and therefore of vital inrportance to nraintain. Scidr was not only an occasional act for solving irnmediate problems. It also seenrs to have been a periodically recurring ritual of considerable length; solne texts state that it lasted several days, According to what can be gathered fronr the texts, such a cerer.nony lrad I certain formal structure that recurs as a cllstornary pattern in the ciifTercrtt sagas. In this respect scidr wus closc'ly linkcd to runtl lifc. The prc'clictitlrts nr:rde at a .scidr cerellrolly ciitl not only concern pcrsortrrl clcstirry.Thcy rrlstl hacl a vital socirtl irrrportnncc rrnd inclicutcd tlrc tirtrrrc tirr:t locll rrrcrt. Itl tl-rc litcrlry ('()l)tcxt l prctlit'tiorr ()r ir ('urs(' grtvt' rt ltirtt it[)() cvct)ts firrtlrct' on itt tlrt' t('\(, ()r liurt tiorrt'tl rts :t ttvt'lrtliort ol' t rtrtlltt ts.

'[-lrere are obvious destructive aspects o{ seidr, not only because dangers rr'..'rc always associated with the ceremony itself, but also due to the ,rrrrbiquous intentions of the performer who, although respected, was ,r;,Plrently also feared. It must be remernbered that in most cases when ,, ir)r is rnentioned in the sagas it is not in conrlection with any clear-cut rrturrl of a fertility character, but as an explanation of ntishaps, as performed rn.rlcvolence, often expressed in a short line rather than an elaborate narrativc. S()nle texts that tell of an invited honoured uqlua also give her a flavour , 'l ,lrrnger.Through her knowledge and performance she held the destiny of ur.u)y people in her hands and obviously she had potential to manipulare a 1ir't'rr fate.The person who conducted the seldr served as a mediator fbr the ,lrllt'rent avenues of communication.The uglua had the capabiliry- both to l,r.rlit't. at spa.and to give advice. at rida. In contrast to various conceptions , 'l slrrrpeshifiing, the per{ormance of seidr was not only a matter of the inner ,;rr,rlities of the acting person.To a great extent it was a question of instrucrr('n ruld learned skill,transmitted fronr an experienced performer to a dis,r;,lt'. In Eyrbygla sagayovng Gunnlaugr frequently visits the middle aged \\(,il)iln Geirridr. His eagerness to learn puts him in the forcefield between rrr,r kn<>wledgeable wonlen, with disastrous consequences for him. Wlr:rt can be gathered from the texts is that seidr was conceived as part of r,lr, t ustomxry behaviour, but thcre were no dogmas, no written rules, only , ',r,rl,lished custom.The traditions of those experienced in performing seidr r, ('nrphasized in the sagas.The inner qualities of the per{ormer, good or l,r,l,.rr-c key points in the narratives, as well as knowledge of tradition.To I'r r t,l)rc knowledgeable,;flqlkunnigr or margkunnigr, was a development, a trunurq, and a struggle to gain insights about what was hidden to others. llr, ritrral showed the importance of being connected to ancient tradition, rrr,l tlrc central character was a person who had access to long-forgotten I rr, Many texts emphasize this ancient knowledge, not only in reia'1y11'qlgs. rrr,11 11v trolldtSmr and seidr,but as sonlethingvaluable and desirable as such. l lrt' lloman historianThcitus noted in his descriptions of the Cermanic trrl,, s (r.9ll t;e) that cerrain women were thought to have a sacred and l,r,,l,lrt'tit'quality (Cermania tt). they are said to deliver advice and forecasts r,,l t. lre honoured for these skills.Thcitus points out a certain wornan, \i l,,l.r. rrs specially well-known in this respecr. Although he builds his r, , (,trtrt ott hearsay artd prcviorts historians, the sirnilarities with the recordrrr,,', lr()rn lcelancl lronr rrrore than a thousanci ycars later can be noted.

lt<trbi\>r! l.itil-ltph,,t's l)crlitrrtrarrrt' rr/ St'ir)r I


tlrr l.trrtlr

lr, tttosl t'xtt'rtsivt'lrrtl rlc(;rilt'tl ir((()unt ol',r tr'ir)r (('11'nl()ny is tirtrrrtl irr t lr,rPtt'r- ol /iir.i(,i {rl(rl lilllr)rl, ()n(. ()l tlrt,Vrrrl,rrrtl r.,r.,,,,"l'lrt' s,r{;r


Witchcraft and Magic in Europe:Tlrc Middlc Ages

Tioild6mr in Early Medieual



with the Icelandic settlement on Greenland and the Norsenren'.s voytoVinland/Anrerica.The text was most likely written in the middle of the thirteenth century (Conroy 19it0;Wahlgren 1993).In the centre of this early chapter stands a travelling father Dorbjqrn and his daughter Gudridr, temporarily staying on Greenland at Dorkell of the Herj6lfsnes farm. It is with sorne hesitation that I choose this text for a more detailed discussion, although it has rnany striking similarities to other Old Norse texts dealing with -seidr and divination. But too nrany tirnes this particular account of the ceremony has been read as an accurate anthropological description o{ a uglua's performance. Questions nrust also be raised concerning the pr.rrpose of the conspicuous image of the seidkona and what was narratively eained from it. The significance of difGrence always seems to be at the core when -sei dr perforrners are described. The chapter opens with a description of the conditions at Herj6lfsnes before the -seidrwas performed.The area had had a harsh period of famine, and a change was urgently desired. T'he invitation to the uqlua was a plea for alteration; her help was badly needed. As the most irnportant farn.rer of the area it was Dorkell'.s responsibility to arrange for a divination ceremony. According to the explicitly claimed custom, sidr, he invites the uglua to hrs farm to predict the forthcor"ning period, a matter of concern for the whole local communiry.'When the famrer adrnits the uglua into his house, social space is created for the ritual. He is in charge of the preparations, and the event as a whole is his responsibility. The rnvited woman is called spikona and given the nicknanrc litil-uglua, 'little seeress'. She is said to be the last surviving of nine sisters, and one r-nanuscript of the saga states that all of them had been spdkonur.zT With this specifrcation the text stresses her being part of an old tradition. It should be noted that the number nine o...r., again, as it does on other occations when Odinn's capabilities are nlentioned in mythological narratives. The -seidr performance was part of a special event, a feast, ueizld, but there was nothing spectacular about the situation. It is a time of crisis, but there is no 'gothic' atrnosphere. The fortune-telling was obviously a social tradition of the area and it was also part of a local ritual pattern to invite the uglta to perfornr divination at the farnr.The outfit and the utensils of the uglua are described as spectacular, i.e. her role as a perforrner is stressed. The text states that at the end of the winter season she wanderedbetween the farms. Hopefully springtime would be more prosperous, which was a vital qr-restion for everybody. Different preparations were undertaken to honour the arrival of the uglua and a nlan was sent to call for her. She arrived at night escorted by the nrarr. l)uring his absence tl're flrrnr pcople had made vrrri<'rus arrangenrents. A cornfirrtlblc hiqh scrrt, /rri.s,r'/i, wrrs arrayecl firr hcr errd :r ti'ether bcrl w:rs ptrt urrclcr Ircr'.'l'lrc stltus ()f tlrc uqr/u,i irr this tcxt is:tpp:rr('ntly clll)lrilsizctl rts lrcing ltiglr. Ilolvt'vt'r, itt otltet'tcxts

:r rather ambiguous status can be expressed. This equivocality is obviously used by the saga authors to create intriguing plots. It is noticeable how

iveli Dorbjorg lltil-uqlua rvas received at the farm, in line with the local
convention. It was the custom, -sidr, to receive a uqlua with reverence.The importance of holdins her in great respecr is explicitly stated three times in the chapter. Flonouring her with an escort contradicts the irnage of the r,glua wanderin5; alone fronr farn.r to farrn that is stressed elsewhere in other saga texts. The text gives a colourful description at leneth of the outfit of the lqrft.,a. She differs fi"om everything commonplace; her marginality is e nrphasized by her costunle. This description by the Christian saia author carr certainly not be read as'the general costunre of a uqlua'.I\ather it is in line with the saga's scenery of a renrote place where paJan customs are still
practised. She was wearins a black n.rantle

with a strap, which was adorned with

precious stones right down to the hen.r. About her neck she wore a string of glass beads and on her head a hood of black lambskin lined with white catskin. She bore a staff with a knob at the top, adorned with brass set with stones on the top. About her she had a linked charn-r beit rvith a large purse. In it she kept the charnrs which she needed for her predictions. She wore calfskin boots lined with fur with long, sturdy laces and large pewter knobs on the ends. On her hands she wore plloves of catskin, white and lined rvith fur. details

rrnke out what is

in her clothing are of special interest. It is complicated to in her purse, lq-f, and whether and how the uglua was

rrrrkirrg trse of it, til-frrldlciks at hafa.The terrninology only indicates rhar she
rs saining knowledge with help fronr the substance. The wand and the lrtrod are mentioned in other trolld6mr stories, although the latter usually lirrrctioned as a;lrotection fronr the evil eye. No estirnation is expressed, or

hint of what was thought of this costullte, or what feelings it chalNothing is said about the looks of the woman, or if she was consrtlcred beautiful or uely. Likewise, nothing is said directly about her age, lrut since she is the last of nir-re sisters it is very likely that she was supposed (o be an aged won'ran. It is of course interestirlg to note that certain syrnl,ols recur when scidrrcnrL and scic)konur are described and to observe that 'r'ir)r pcrfornrers are saic.l to use a special kincl of equipnlent. But it must be rt'rrrr:rrrberecl that all strch characters rtre nrade to stand out fi'orn the rest.

I ltc literary uses of trolldtirrrr syntbolisnr clo not represent the ritr-ral pracrice ,,r.socirrl intemctiorr stcp by stcp.As u perfirrrrrer thc uq>lru was the rtranifesl.rl i, rtt ot'olrl-tit ttc lttrc. /ririft.t.s,rq,,r titttr)rt tt'lls of',t lottrl r'itrr:rl l:rstirrg two tlrrys, ()r nl()r-c prcciscly

lrvo rriglrts.'l'lrc Pt',rPlr'ol llrt'l.rtrrr r'orrsitlt'rt.rl it to be tlreir tlrrty t() grc('t


Witchcraft and Magic in Europe:Tlrc Middle Ages

T[o11d6mr in Early Medieual



the uqlua with great respect, although Dorbjqrg litil-uglua's answers were to her estimation of each person. The first night Dorkell, the master of the farm, took her hand and 1ed her to the prepared high seat, which once nlore stresses the importance of honouring the in-rportant gtrest. A most intriguing scene is rvhen the uqlua is asked to look all over the place, renna par augLutt, to set her eyes on people and livestock, and over the whole settlement.The eyes of the knowledgeable is a recurring theme in Old Norse literature, but it is the fear of their gaze that is emphasized in other texts. In this sequence the gaze is asked for as something favourable, but it could as well be hazardous. Once again we are confronted with the ambiguity of the capacities of -seldr perforn-rers. Every character in the text is dependent on the intention of the spikona. However, thrs first night Dorbjqrg is sornewhat reluctant and mostly stlent,-fimilngr.After the greeting cerenrony and an introduction to the farm people, a special meal was prepared for the uglua; first she was served a porridge of goat's milk and then a stew of hearts from ail animals. No comment on the food is ofTered in the text. The uqlua had brought her own cutlery, which was as remarkable as her clothing: 'She had a spoon of brass and a knife with an ivory shaft, its two halves clasped with a bronze bands, and the point of rvhich had broken off '.2e As with the cloths, no comnlent is given on the cutlery

After the meal Dorkell, the farrr-rer, approached the uplua and asked her what she thought about the place and its people. He aiso made an attempt to bring up subjects everybody was anxious to inquire about. B:ut the uglua rejected his questions and said that she could not answer until the next rnorning after having slept.The text does not give us any indication whether or not there is a connection between the rneal and her dreams. ISefore gorng to sleep the uplua is asked if she is content, but she keeps hei silence. Not until the next evening do the preparatiorls surrt again, lnd for the
first time the expression seidr is used in the text.Arrangements to promote the seidr are said to be made, but no details are otTered. Before the scidr could begin the uqlva asked for a wonran who knew the song that was essential for the ceremony.But no such woman was available.After a while Gudridr, the gucst, said:'I have neither: magical powers lfiqlkunnigrl nor the gift of prophecy [i.e. I anr not a wiscwomlt:r,uisindanakoral, but in Iceland my foster-n-rother Halldis taught me chants she called ward songs fuardlokkurl.'3{) 3r, she refuses to take part in the actual ritual since she is a Christian wonlan. Her father has left the farnr irnd stays ilway as long as such pagan ceremonies are perfornrecl. With the exccption of Gudridr'.s rather gentle protests at the beginning and hcr fathcrls rtbsence, the conflict between the olcl religion ancl thc ncw is not explicitly crrrplmsizcd rn this prrticul:rr tcxt. l>orkcl] is by rto n)c:lns rcprcscrrtcrl ils u l)ilgiu); trcvertltclcss lre is tlrc orrt'wlro |crsrrrrtlcs tltt'yotrrrg \\'()nr.ln lo [rt'r'firrrrr tltt'sortg

,rf the country

required for the cerentony. Although nothing is said in the text about his to procure her, it is plausible ro think that he invites her out of concern for his farm. As the leading man of the area he knows that the period of fanrine rnust be broken. In contrast to the preparations, the ritual itself is hardly described at all. The women formed a ring around the hjallr and Dorbjqrg sat upon it. Neither the activities of Dorbjqrg litil uqlua, nor rhe hjallr is explained, nor if she nrakes use of her wand or anything else in her equipment. Gudridr'.s sons, ky@di, is said to be the most beautiful ever heard. Considering the detaiis already given in rhe text it is hard to agree with Strombdck in his irrterpretation of the meaning of the vardlttA&a song. FIe argues that there is rrn obvious trace of shamanistic trance in the ritual.31 But nothing is mentioned in the text about the uglua's soul or any journey of the soul, either in ecstasy or with the body lying down in any kind of altered stare of consciousness.The song is just said to be sur-rg and there are no comments on the eflect on the participants. Direct influences on the Old Norse world view from circunrpolar areas is still a little-investigated field, though rnost possibly interesting parallels are to be found. To label the performance of rr'idr as shamanism in a post-Eliade manner seenls an all too phenomenological and simplistic approach. In contrast to phenornenological argunlentrtion, Thornas DuBois has recently offered linguistic evidence for Sami .rnd,/or Balto-Finnic influence on the Norse practice of seidr (1991)). It is unclear how long it takes to perform the sei dr. After the acrual ritrrll Gudridr is first of all thanked for her achievement.Then the rplza tells tlrat the spirits, nittilrur, are pleased with her beautiful singing.The name oI the spirits is not known from mythological narratives either. The uglua rs able to tell that they are pieased to hear the singing. Suggestions have lrcerr nrade that they should be interpreted as landuettir.'Help in exploitrrrq aninral wealth is normally credited to landucettir, or "gr,rardian spirits"

/ ... . Landucettir is grammatically

a feminine noun, but

or men' Disir and alfar are other beings associared with the lr.,sehold, and as recipients of offerings and as the objects of rituals they ,.rrld plausibly influence futurc prosperity.They were all collective beings livins u,der family-like conditions and could in some respects be said to rrrirrt:lr the people of the fatm.The well-being of the larnrer was rhe prert'tltrisite of the latter. Ancestors who are concerned about the farm and It'r'tility spirits are spoken of in the sanre nrode. Chasing away the landurettir rv:rs the qoll fbr Egill Skalh-(]rinrsson when he was perforrning his
(f<rchens 1993:310). r',rrrcsonre lii<). Aficr thc sirrgirrg 1l1g 1,qr/i,rr's irrrporturrt prcdictiorrs arc

rr,'lren the creatures are represented, they appear either as animals

to bc r.rrlde.The

,rrrly firr-t'r'rrst toltl ;rt lcrrgtlr is:rtrotrt (itrr)rit)rls splcrrdid tirtrrrc - tlmrrratic lrttt Irt'tlsIlt'rotrs.'l'ltr' l)r'()l)lr('( y st'r'vt's tlrt' s.lnl(' n,u'r',rtiv(' l)ur'[)()\c lrs firrc-


Witchcrali and Magic in Europe:The Middle Ages

T[o11d6mr in Early Medieual



telling, curses and drearns often do in Icelandic sagas; it outlines the forthcoming text (Conroy 1980: 119f.). The atmosphere is amicable and the uqluabids Gudridr farewell and calls her'r-ny daughter'.This intimacy could be conrpared to the scene at the beginning when the uglua greets the people of the farm according to her opinions about ther-n.The underlying tone is that the perforrner of the ritual, the vglua,has some distinct influence over the near future. Not only should the spirits be pleased to assure a flourishing summer season, but the uplua as well. Aggression against a diviner never pays off.Then the scene is settled for the last part of the long ritual and perhaps the most important for the cornnron people - the opportunity for other people fronr the farm to ask the uqlua what is on their minds. She was quite talkative and the saga states that most of what she said turned out to conle true.\X/hen the cerenrony was all over Forbjgrn, Gudridr's father, was
sent for, since he had left the farr-n while paganism was practised. 'What was the author's purpose in providing us with this circunrstantial picture of pagan rituals? The episode certainly stands out among other narratives of individual persons in Old Norse literature. One plausible reason could be the wish to formulate a powerful contrast between the old and the new religion, with the two Gnrales as icons for old and new sidr. Eir[ks saga rauda as a whole could be read as a glorification of Gudridr as a favourable character, thus emphasizing the sapJa as a Christian text. As many scholars have argued, the main character in the saga is the young worlan Gudridr but her dorninant position in the text has been interpreted in different ways.

lr.rtl recently arrived from lceland.The Greenlanders seem to take the cererrr,,rry for granted, in all its phases and possibilities. Irrstead of pointing to the contrast between Gudridr and Forbjgrg one ,,,rrlcl stress the fact that the ritual described is almost exch-rsively domirr,rtcd by women and that it is the collaboration between the women that rrr,rkcs it a success.Without doubt both women are needed for the fulfil-

rrrt'rrt of the ritual.Whether or not the conflict or the collaboration thenre rs stressed, Eiriks saga rauda ts nevertheless a text fiiied with more details ,,rrrcerninS; scldr than any other. Even so, unanswerable questions renrain r,'r1:rrtlins the actual practice and its meaning. Scveral diflerent alents appear on the ritual arena at Heri6lfsnes, each of rlrt'rrr adding a perspective to the conrplexity; the farrner, who has the ',,,t i:rl responsibility; the perfornrer, alternately called spikona and uqlua;the ',rrqcr, the main assistant of the performer; and the other wonlen fronr the l,rrrrr tlrat assemble around the uqlua on the h.iallr during her performance .rrrrl firnn a circle, co-assisting in sonre way.There is also an anonymous

,rrr,licnce'to the cerenrony which interr.ningles with'the other wornen'in ,luul role; on the one hand they are co-performers, on the other they ,rr,' rcceivers of the benefits fronr the ritr-ral. Indirectly, r,ve can surnrise a ,,, rrtlcr-division of the farm people where the women seenl to take a more

Since she is to beconle the Grnale ancestor of several bishops, some observers note that the young wonran's virtues and merits are emphasized throughout the text (Strornblck 1935: 56ff.).Yet her role as main character can be interpreted fronr two very dillerent points of view. As there are two pronrinent Gnrale characters irnportant to the sei dr - the uqlua and Gudridr - one could focus on the women'.s different religious faiths. To begin with, claiming her Christian faith, Gudridr refuses to take part in the ritual. But after some persuasion she agrees to sing the song necessary for the ritual. A more concealed conflict in the text, between the old traditions and the new, could therefore be stressed. On the other hand, the ritual is never condemned in the text. Quite the opposite; the scidr cerernony is said to obtain the e{lect desired.The divination does not seem to be necessarily contradictory to the Christian faith, no aggression towards the new religion is expressed.As in other texts, turnirlg back to the old lore seenrs to be a solution in difficult situations.The vivid scene could be the result of the historical interests of an antiquarian author,who wishes to give a grar-rdiose picture of tirr.res passed.The'exotic'image is of Grecnland as son)ethins nlore pag:ul and wild, a lancl olsettlers, only slor'vly conrltrcrccl by Olrristiarrity, in contmst to thc (llrristiun civilizrtion of Iccl:rrrd. Accortling to tlrc srrr{rr tcxt tlrc orrly ottcs wlto llr()t('st rrglrirtst tlrt't-r'rt'rnorry rrn' lror[rjr,rrrr lrrrtl lris rl:rtrqlrtcr, rvlr<r

trvc part in the fertility ritual than the men. 'I'lre reason given for the promised turn of fortune is that the spirits are ,r,,rr, lrleased when Gudridr has sung the uardlokkd song, and indirectly we .'r, lctl to believe that they have caused the famine.Throughout the chapr, r tl)c uqlua ts the acting and dominant subject of all events and the object r', tlrt'people of the farrn who have actually asked her to perform the seldr. llrt'rc is no tendency to reverse sr-rbject and object as is the nrethod for .rlr,'r'rrrg the balance of power in sonre trolld|rnr stories. With Connerton'.s definition in rnind we can assunre that divinatory r,),. wils a rule-governed social conventiorl. I specially want to emphasize ', lr\ \t.rtcllrent that a ritual'draws the attention of its participants to objects ,,1 tlrotrsht ancl fi:eling which they hold to be of special significance' (('orrrrcrton 1989: 44). Divination satisfied both intellect and ernotions ,rrr, r'it g.rve irrsig;irts into what had caused the fanrine as well:rs an irnpres,r()n ()f sccl-u-ity ls regarcls the future.As a senri-public event it was open to tlr,' prrrticipation r>f wornelr r,vho - at least the nrost proillinent among rlr, rrr r'otrlcl cstablish sonrc socirl authority.



r r


I'l tt


s i t r,4tto

t r r t I

s rr/ Scit)r

/ lr'('r r,tq,t titlr),r is :t ttttitlttt' ltrll lt'rrgtlr rr'i<)r tt:rt't':t(ivt' ol-tlre wlrolr' ritu,rl t't't'tt(, tvltt'tt':ts olltt't .tt r ottnls ottly rlivt' ll,rr-ls ol tlt't:ttls llr,tt ttcvt't'-


Witchcraft and Magic in Europc:The Middle Ages

Tiolld6mr in Early Medicual Scandinayia


follow a certain pattern. There were no settled rules for -scldr ritua1s, but some of the saga authors stressed in their texts sonle syrnbols that seemingly nrust have been associated with such perforn-rances. Most saga writers, in one way or the other, give seidr performers and characters associated with trolld6mr a n-rarginal position in the text. As there were reservations about Eiriks saga raudd, other accounts of seidr are
likewise questionable as ethnographic sources. Although the conditions and contexts of the texts may alter, there is always a distinct purpose for performing -seidr. It is never said to be executed accidentally, but always by will. There was always a problern to be solved, a condition to be changed, or a prediction to be made for the corling season, and for this reason a person with extraordinary knowledge was called upon. Both the divinatory aspects of -seldr and the performed malevoience share this basic feature.When seidris conceived as a comlllunal divinatory ceremor-ry in sagas this is frequently expressed with ar-r invitation to the uglua to perform at quite a grand feast.As Norna-Gests pll/r states about 'the old days':

At that time [Norna-Gest's childhood] wise wornen fuqlur] used to llo about the country. They were called 'spae-wives' [-rplkorllr], and they foretold peoplet futures. For this reason people used to invite them to their houses and gave then hospitality and bestowed gifts on thenr at

loocl hospitality deserved something better, and you'll be driven away if \'()r.r go round predictine evi1.'36 Paynrent and gifts to the spikona are rnentroned several times elsewhere and in this case a flavour of dissatisfaction rvith tl-re result of the divination seems to be at hand.As mentioned above, ,'r'",, 6dirrn pays the uglua wtth jewellery for advice before rarynrqk. (]uite difTerent from the stories when -seidr is performed to cause darn,rrit' is divinatory seidr, which seems to demand two things: the ceremony l,oth as a joint effort by the comrnunity and also as a gathering of a semil,rrblic character.There xre no secrecies or hiclden activities, just the perlor.rnance of an expert, sometimes with the assistance of people from the l,rrrrr. In Qruar Odds sdg.7 the seidkond cotlles to the feast with a group of \()uus assistants who form a kind of choir for the nightly performances. It r., rrbvious in Eiriks saga rauda how important the joint singing of the r',tr,\lokka song was to piease the spirits.The ritual seemed to be completed rrrtlr the circle of women around 1\s yglua. In the exceptional ritual r,lt'rr-cd to in the Vqlsa pdffi all the people frorn the farm come together to sirrs to and praise the cult object,Vqlsi. ( )nc text of great interest * although it does not mention any of the rr.,rr;tl trttlldimr terminology * is the observations made by the Arabic writer ll,rr lradlan, -"vho encounteredVikings sailing down theVolga at the beginrrrnq of the tenth centlrry. In a context utterly difGrent from that of the ,.rr1,rs, he describes parts of a funeral ceremony that lasted for several days.
\,'rt.rl clenrents recognizable from texts in an Icelandic setting appear also in

The fonr-ral organization around the uglua's visit hints at an understatrd-

ing of the ceremony as an estabiished social institution. But as with the exotic surroundings for the seldr ceremonies many explanations are plausible. The uglur are said to w-alk frorn one farm to another and be invited to perfornr at larger gatherings arranged by a host who invites all his people at the farm to a seidr ceremony and to join the feast. The ternt yeizla is often used for these occasions. Qruar Odds saga tells the following about the uglua Heidr:'She wor-ild go to feasts, telling people about their destinies and fbrecasting the weather for the corning winter.'33 In almost all texts
personal fate and future prosperiry are at the centre ofinterest.

tlr,' Mtrslinr writer'.s chronicle. Before the chieftain is burnt on his ship a l.rrrtl oldivination ritual is said to be perfornred by his conlpany with the rrlr,rle crew participating. Songs are nrentioned and there is a woman at

('e l)tre of the perforntances. Arr olcl won1al1, called'the angel of death', and her two daughters assist rrr tlrc lor-rg preparations for the chieftaint last journey. A young slave \\()nlrln is selected to accolnpany him and she plays an essential role in the




Ingjaldr and his people invited a Saami wonran to spi.'The Lapp wonran, splendidly attired, sat on a high seat. Men left their benches ancl went fonvard to ask about their destinies. For each of then'r she predictecl that which eventually carte to pass.'34 Some texts tell of preparations n.rade for the honor.rred gtrest. In VigaGlilms sd.qd we read: '[t was thought very irrrportlnt that h<>uscwives in thc area should give her [the rrplrral a g<>ocl wclconrc, firr wh:rt shc seid w:rs rather influenced by thc hospitrrlity ofli'rcd lrcr.'rs lrrtcrcstinLlly, tlrc tcxt g()cs ()rr to tcll ltrotrt:t conHii't Irclwer'rr tlrt'lrostt'ss rrrrtl tltt'r,Q/r,,r.'l-lre tirrtttt'r is lt()t ('()llt('ltt wrtlr wlr:rt slrt'lrt':rrs:rrrtl slrorrts:'l slrotrltl Ir.rvc tlrottgltl

,lrlli'rent parts of the ritual. In the finai cerenrony she is lifted over a rr,,,,tlcr) gate or franre construction and is thereby able to look into other ,lrrrrt'nsions of reality.As a kind of nrediator the slave girl tells that she can ,, , (lrc relln ol the dead and leaves nressages for the other participanrs. llrt' sirnilarities rvith .rcidr and the cerc-nrony conducted by the farmer's rr rlt' irr L/plsa l:ittr lrave crrught the attention of several scholars who point rr tlrt'clinrtrirrq or lifting up as esscntili to tl-rc diviner (Steinsland andVost



Arrtlr[.rr 1993).

Irrr'rurtrrtiorr :rrrci

tlrc illlp()rt;u)('c oF sirruing :rrc very rrruch

stressed in

nr()rr('lrt ol'vot;rliz:rti()n tl)(' lorrtl rrttr'r'lurtc rrr;rtlc tlrc rr(l ('()r)( r('tt' rc;rlity. SPclls r',rst t'orrltl rrot Irt' t't'rrrovt'tl witlr lcss thlrr , rlu.rllv s(11)ng rvortls.'llr,' ,lttttl,tng ol tlrt' /ri,r//r .rrrtl tlrt' rrsg of'otlrcr

l,,,tlr lttldic' [)()ctry rrrrd tlrc Iristoricll cltrorrit'lcs oI tlrc

sagas. Irr the worcls lrr :rbsoltttc


Witchua_fi and Mdgic

in Europt':The Middle


Trolld6rnr in Early




eqr-ripment could either be textual markers of otherness or tools necessary for successful rituals. Urrdor-rbtedly the most intricate description of special clothing is Dorbjprg litil-vglva in Eiriks saga rauda. No other -scidr perforrner is given such an outstanding outfrt.Their outward appearance is in r11ost cases not lllentioned at all. A few other texts nrention the wand, s/af, but rve have no description of its ritual use. Hoocls like porbjeg'.s do also appear in relation to perfomers, but rnore to protect against the gaze of a knowledgeable person who perfornts destructive seidr when captured and punished.

The seidr performer was obviously not conceived of as an ordinary person and this discrepancy had to be nrarked in the text. But the var:iation between the individual sagas is so great that no fixed pattern can be established. For the saga writer a choice of dillerent possibilities was :rvailable. As we have seen, the executor was a temporary lluest and the perfomrance was at night. OId ase was one way to represent the oid lore, i.e, the ancient traditions. Along with age, ethnicity is the strongest nrarker of otherness, as when the Celtic Kotkell family perforrns -scidr in Laxdela saga 35f{. (Sayers 1992: 133).When.finnir,i.e. Fir.rns and Saami people, appear they often serve as a warning in saga texts. Trouble is bound to colne since these pc-ople rvere believed to be more skilled in trolldtinw rhan others (Page 1964; Mundal and Steinsland 19U9: 108).In Hilfdanar sdsd sudrta a Saarni n-ran is captured and tortured in order to make hinr reveal clandestine things to the king. However, violence is not the way to nrake the Saanti speak, rvhclse spiritual strenpith lasts longer than

strflicient to free the kingt nrind lronr what Snj6fridr has done to bind lrim.When she dies the king r-nourns inconsolably fbr three years arrd her body does not decornpose * until the king is advised by a knowledgeable pcrson to change the cloth under the corpse. Her body inrnrediately bcgins to change. When burnt the trr,rth is revealed; snakes, lizards, and other foul animals corne out of her body.The inragery is significant for the hybridity of the Viking age: local conceptions about ethnic neighbours rrrcet Christian thenres of rejection. Since the early days of Cllrristi.rniw tlernons and devils - and persons associated with such creatures - were linked to foul aninrals. Physical contact in this case seelrls to be the solutiorl to revealing the true nature of tire Saami wife.

The perforrner of trolldt|mi. was given a r.narginal status. Nevertheless, she or he was an in.rportant person, whom people depended upon.This urrbigriity runs nlore or less constantly throughout the .v'idr corpus.A clear exanrple is in Nlorna- Cests pitn' 1 1 rvhere three -sprifrorrlr tell the fortune of your.rg ( iestr.Tlre per{ornring wollren are interchanueably called rplkorurr, uqlur tnd trorniy. Orte of then'r, r,vho does not gain the estinration required, allnoLllrces .rrr on.rilrous fbrtune for the little boy: he will not live longer than the candlc' lreside hirn lasts. He is rescued bv one of the other spikonur who blows the t'rrndle out and gives it to Gestr's mother. The account is skilftrlly placed at the end of the story so that in the foilowing chapter (lestr can finally light thc candle when he concludes that, at the age of 30(), he has irr,'ed a full life.

bmte lbrce. The Latin chronicle


Cult of rlre Vplsi and ()tlrtr Priuatc Rinuls

an anonynlorls text frortr the latter part of the trvelfih century, dedicates a whole chapter to the Saarni and their extraorclinary physical and spiritual abilities.Their r-rse ofgarrdr, their ability to achieve tenrporary guise, is especially stressed and conceived of as a terrible threat. Marriages to Saami wonten in Old Norse texts alw:rys tllrn ollt to be disastrous. In Vdtnsdrxla saga 10 a Saanri wonlrn is urvited to tell fortunes according to the old traditions since such women did not always give bad prophecies, if treated well. Like the uqlua in ntytirological narratives she is both lbared and needed, and ciearly defincd to be of anorher kind - rn Vpluspi as raised by jqtnttr, in the sagas by ethnicity.Along wirh sonre nrore erhnographic notions on their nonradic life, skills in hunting and use of snow shoes and skies, Saxo tells of how Saanris are known to be able to deceive the sight of victims by rllusion (V: 13il). Kins Haraldr of Norway in Haralds -raqa in-s htifiaqm is in raprures over the beauty of Srl6lri<)r, dar-rrl.rtcr of :r Saanii kirrg. The youns wolllar) serves the kirrg a cttl'r of tttenrl:irrcl 'nvlrerr he trrkcs hcr harrtl thc tcxt rlssrlrcs rrs thrtt hc fi' if-firc burrrs lris skirr. spcllbotrrrtl lrt'rrr:rrrit's tlrc lrc:rrrtifirl Srr.jritii<)r :uttl lirrge ts ltis loyrrl tltrtit's. ( )nlitr:rry pcoplt"s plt',rs .rlc rrot

()rre of the few exanrples of private religious cerenronies in Old Norse lit('r:rtlrrL' r;an be read irr the so called y'p/-sa pattr, an inscrtion of prose and l)oetry in the longer Olali saga lius ltclga.It is a story of conversion and tlcscribes King C)lafr'-s irrcogniro visit to r renrote farnr in the far north of Norway.The disgtrisecl king and his conlpany lvitness a reinarkable ritr,ral, rrr lvhich the rgl-si, a preservecl horse phallus, is r,vorshipped as a god. The lcxt states that these people have no knor.vledge about the trtre f,rith.The locll fertility cerelrony is performed by the people fron the firrnr :rnd, ,rt'r'orcling to the text, the ritual is first introduced, and then continously Icd, by the fanuer\ witb. The private character and the fernale rctivitv rrr:rkcs it a uniclr-re description.The pittr refers to:rn old frrra'di (poerrr) as tlrc origin of the story end through the'thirteen strlnzes the egents in the t('\t ure giverr indiviclrnl v<'riccs irr thcir rclation to thc cult of thc rrol-si. Vrrior-rs lsp('cts of tlris tt'xt llrvc becrr :rnllyzcd lry (iro Stcirrsllrrd arrt]
Possi[rlc s()u11'('

(l()ltl). Ilrt'r'nr:rkt'st'vt'nrl rtt'u'suggt'stiorts,strcssittq tlrt'tcxt:rs:t lilr-orrl krr,,rvlt'rlrit'ol't'r,t'rvrl:rv rt'ligiorr. IIorvcvcr, it is ttot rrrv irrtt'rrtiorr to l.rkt' l).uI ln tlrt' tlisrtrssiott ,rlrott( lltt' tlt.rt':tttt'r ol'(ltt'
l(.rri Vrgt


Witchcra_ft and

Magic in Europe:The Middle Ages

Tiolld6mr in Early Medicudl



cerenlony and what it is airned at, but only to notice their interpretation of tlre farnrer'.s wife as a local uqlua w'Lth the ability not only to foresee the Future, btrt also to rrrake it prosperous. Actually two rituals are described. First, there is a preservation ceremony during which the horse phallus is embalmed in a piece of linen-cloth with onions and herbs. Secondly, there is the daily evening ritual when the firnrer's wife takes the uplsl out of its coffin and brings it to the firrm people. They sit together, they all take the uqlsi rn their hands, and each nrenrber of the household sings an individual verse, kuctdi, to it.The phallus is simultaneously worshipped as a deiry and sacrificed. The cult object is spoken to in terms of an oflering and the receiver(s) are named mqrutir. The identity of these powers is disputable and has caused debate. Fertrlity powers llke disir have been suggested, as well as the fertility god Freyr, and Steinsland andVogt argue for giantesses.The llrst one to address the zglsi is the farmer'.s wife. She greets it and praises its size and strength - and calls it the mernir. Disgusted by witnessing this pagan ceremony, the Christian king throws the rqlsi to the farm dog, which swallows it immediately. King Olafr reveals his identity and,since the saga is the story of a saint,he converts the rvhole farrn and the plrtr ends. Of special interest to the present discussion on trolld6mr is the question rr.hether the farnrer'.s wife could be regarded as a performing uqlua or not. Steinsland and Vogt ofler two argunrents which relate the farmer's wife to the actil,ities of auqlua (1981:103f.).The first one is the etymolosical connc'ction between uplr (wand), uqlua and uplsi. They suggest that the uglsi rnight be the equivaient of the u,and in the cultic activities of the woman. Ilut there are few exai.nples of wands ritually used by uglur and, therefore, the second argunlent nrust be regarded as the stronger, which concerns the following points. Certainly a nrost interesting detail is that the rituai seerns not to end when the uplsi is thrown away by the king. The farmert wife, although very upset, can complete her ritual r,vith a fornrula. In stanza 13 she asks to be raised over the door-frame so that she can rescue the ofTering that has been destroyed. The lifting up can be plausibly connected to tlre ability at spi, of foreseeing, with the door serving as a nretaphor for seeing into 'anotl.rer side'. Like Forbjgrg litil-vglva and the slave gir1, the worran climbs the tree constrllction as a part of the ritual perforrnance.

in many activities perforrned by a t,glua.Therc is nothing in the tcxt indicating any divination of indiviclual futures, rvlrich - as we have scetr in other texts - is a vital elenrent in ntost -scidr-ritua1s. But collective Prosperiry is saved by the actions undertaken by the wolrlan in charge of

A third argument could be added to Stei.sland andvoigti in ordcr ro establislr such a connectiorr between the farrner's wife and uqlur ts the ,'lose link to fertility and sood living condirions. FutLlre prosperity is also

tlrc rituals-

when trying to a,alyse vqka pittr,rany of the sa,re problelrls occur as rvlrerr discussing the scidr cereurony in Eirik-s sago raudi.ln both cases a1r t'l:rborate ritual is described and in the corrversion story rn cxotic and
lrcathen context
the ceremony can be connectcd to a cert.rin pf,tIt'rn of ritual practices, as stressed before.T\no radically diflerent positions , .rn be arsued for: either the zpl-ii ritual is a burlesqtre of the hicleous nuurners of the pagans of the tar north, or it is a plausible n-rodel of local re lisious lifb. It is told that only the dar-rghter of the farnr recognizes rhe suest at once .rs the king, but she does not revcal his true identity. Sir-rce tte text is or1 tlrc whole very well structured it is very ternpting to read this cletail as an rrrrlrse of thc young generation'.s attitude resarclins the new religion in
( irecnland. Nevertheless

is constructed in the text, as rvild ancl rerllote



()ntr;lst to the older generation'.s ancl the olcl religior-r.In this perspecrivc, it .ur be noted that the farnrer's rvifb is looked upolr as stubbornly holcling .rr to the heathen faith.At the beginning of the texr she is s:rid to be clonr( (

When the fanner's wife'.s worship is violently interrupted, her ability to use her gaze helps her to fulfrl the cerenrony in the way the knowleclgeable airvays can, since they see what is clandestine to others.The divinatory aspect is what Steinslancl ancl Vogt call 'the real and the inrnraterial aspects of the ritual'(19U1: l{)4). For c<>nrpamtivc rcrsons it clrr lrc rrcldcd that in Tiicittrs'rl('('() o1'()errnlrrrir' dcvirr:rti<ln. tlrt' sccr-css Vt'lctlrr is slitl t<l bc kcpt irr :r lriglr torvcr tirrrr rvlrit lr slrt';rrrsr,vt'r's tltrt'stiorrs (//irl,,ri,rr'-1.r,5)

lr,r.('lter extent than many other old Norse texts (Kress 191)3: 57ff.; N.urnrann 191)3).The text is divided into three parts; the first sc-ven firllow each other, while the two last are anticipatecl by prose inserti.rrs. with its nine verses the text constitutes a Llnique exarnple in olcl N.rse literature of how a saga writer has made use of the poetic fbrn-r of .1,t'lls rrncl the sr,rpposccl por.ver of tar-reaching strong worcls. poetry .rl)[)cur{ with sorrrc frecltrency in tlre prosc texts, but to nry knorvledge this rt tltt' lttttgest ttsc of tltc spcll [rrrrrr in uny sitgu. With rts str()ng worcls r-he slrt'll :tdtls irrtcltsity ro tltc corrHict irr tlrc clr:rptcr.Tlrc rr;rrr;rtivtl firc:trsgs 9rr ,r tlisPtrte [lctwt'ctt I(itrg Ilrirrqt';rttil ;ur oltl w()lniul. Iitrsl,r, krrorvrr firr ]rer rvistlottt. IIcr PllrVt'r'is;r lrt.titiolr lo';rst'(,o lrt.rot.s of' lltt's;tg:r, <ltrt'ol'tltt,ttt llrt'Ltrrri's ()\\,il s()il, lltt'otlrt'r-ltt.t.lirstt,r.sorr. lirrt

lr,rrrtl, r-rot the most iurportant rvhen trying to gair.r public aLlthority ro slrcrk.What rernained was'corrosive discor-rrse' (Lincoln I991). 'rlre fanrous Buslubean rhat appears in the fifth chapter of iJd-sa -sa{a oft llcrrttuds is a poem that emphasizcs the power of the spoken u,ord to a

to be the nrost reluctant towarcls the rrerv religion. Old wonlen in other texts also serve as representatives of ,rrrcient lore.Those two features - age and gencler were, on the other

rrr:rnt and determined and at the end


Witdrcrqft and Magic in Europe:The Middle A,qes

Trolld6nrr in Edrly Mcdieual Scartdinauia

Soon I shall dart Close to your heart With poison snakes to gnaw yor-rr breast: I)eafen your ears,



what begins as a plea ends as a cllrse. The introductory prose gives sotne interesting details about the character of Busla. No really negative words are used, but her skills are apparently conceived of as ambiguous old-time

The knolvledgeable."vor.nan'.s monologue identifies itself by name in the

second stanza, Buslubtt:n,'Br-rsla'-s prayer'. is specifically called brxn,prayer, a 'uvord common in Christian terrninology, and not galdr, kucedi or anything else we could easily trarrslate as spell or charnr. Sti1l the poem is emphasized as pagan and'wicked'. l-)usla appeared in the king'.s bedroom and recited a prayer which has been known as'Busla's Prayer' ever since. It has becorre famous everyrt,here, and contains nrany wicked rvords unfit for Christian tnouths.3T


Blind you with tears.38 (trans. by Pilsson and Edwards 1985: 206) Ncither the place nor the mode is proper i, addressing a king. Busla encJs lrcr threats with a hint about king Hringr',s impotence and loit nranliness; tlrcreby she challenges hirn both as a man and as a ruler:
And what a shame When you play the uame, 'When she'.s on her back But you've lost the knack: Would you like to hear some more39 (trans. by Pilsson and Edwards 19g5:20(rf.) lrr the following prose the king is very upset and atenlpts to attack Br_rsla violence, to silerce her, to cut hcr ofr, calling her uintJ ucetty, ', r'il clemon' or'spirit'. But Busla has bor-rnd hir-n with her ipell. He cannot r rst' fronr his bed to attack her and the servants around hi,-,, ,.. put to ',lr't'p. we recognize fiom other sagas the aggressive atte,lpt to stop the Irr.wledgeabie when unfavourable lvords are uttered. Thus, in this case rr.tlring can hinder the forceful words uttered bv Ilusla. She continues and lrt'r' threats escalate. All kinds of supernatural beings are let loose according rr, l1g1 curse, all the beings that wrll attack if Ki,g Hringr does not plea to release the prisor.rers. They are called trolls, elves (afii{, lrrtrwledgeable norns (tqfranornir), a,d different narles lor giants ancl ,lt rrronic beings: hilar, hcrgrisar, hrimpursar - beings presented ", , tlr.rrr the power of the king. Attcr this cascade the king rneets Busla's petirion half-way and asrees rc-r r, lt'.rse one of the prisoners, his own son, but not her fosterson.

lrr this text the recurring rrotif of the performer of trolldltmr as an old perwith access to ancient lore and alnrost lost knowledge, tp-fr, appears again. Both before and after the poem explicit references are made to the nevn, religion , ts in Crcttis -saga discussed above. Nevertheless, Busla is asked to assist in a problenratic situation and the text reveals at this point an anrbiguous attitude torvards the o1d religion. Busla is not ar all preser-rted as an evil person and, fronr the saga author'.s point of view, she is supportivc and loyal to her fosterson. Even so, what she threatens King Hringr r,vith nrust fall undc'r the category of perforrned nralevolence. The use of the spoken word in an attelnpt to break fetters and release prisoners is not exclusively an Old Norse tradition. Release is the tlrerre of the first Merseburg Charm and Bedei Historia Ecclasiastiu 4'. 22 as well as the Christian legend of St Paulis visit to and inrprisollrent in

r'ith physicai


Tlre first part of Buslubwn constitlltes a kind of invocation to listen tcl Br-rsla.The king nrust realize her capacity r,vhcn shc threatens to nrake her u,ords known all over the world, which w'ill disgrace the man who rs prepared to kill his own son. IJusla'.s speech is necessarily'corrosive' since she is neither the right person to cornnrand a king, nor does she choose the right tirrre or place (the king's bedroorn).There is fbrce and confidence itt her words and fronr the third verse she lets her powers loose. ln the ftillowing verse Busla gives a catalogr-re of the bacl things that will happen ttr the king rf her plea is not obeyed. King Hringr will experiencc physicll pain, and snakes and clernons will rttack hinr. IJusla will raise storms artrl turn all llatLrre against hinr; ships rnci irorses will feil I'rirrr lrrd hc will be :rrr casy target for all trolls. Starrzrs -l to 7 cxprcss (-()nlru()n vicw's ltbout wltltl krro'nvlcclgcublc pcrsorrs:lrc supl)()sc(l to lrc:rblc to irrf]it't orr tltt'il rrpltorrerrts urrtl slrorv sirrtil:tt'itics to tltt' t':rtllogttc's ot'/r,r//r/,irirr ;r[rilitres irr lrtltlrt'
l)()('( ry.

that case, I'11 have to deal u.ith yor-r further,' said llusra. Then she strrrtcd recitins the so-called 'Syrpa verses'which hold the nrost powerlirl rn:rsic, and which nobody is allor,vecl tc-r siug after sunset.40


Ilr,'tin:rl statrzlt is strpposeclly thc strorrscst rnil ilher plca is not lulflllecl tlrt'kirrg rttttst t'itltcr solvc:t riddlc of six nlr)res or tlrc worst of []r-rsllls pre,lt, (lol)s r,vill c'orttc tltrt'. Aticr tltc vcrst' lr lirrc witlr lturir' lcttcrs is irrscrtcrl, rr lrit lr rs strplrost'tl to [rt' tlrt' ritkllc. li:rt.irrg tlris Prctlorrrirr;rrrt.c tlrt. kirrg r',1\'('s tl[). Ncxt tllry tltt'1rt'isottt't-s,rti'tt'lt':tst'rl rrrrtl tlr<. li,llorvirrg r'lr:rPtt'rt( (()tlllts tlrlrt tlrt' tw() ttt('tr .tlrr,tYs lirllorvt'tl llrrsl.ri .rrlvr,t' irr llrt'ir lirtrrrt.


Wixhcraft and Magk in Europe:'L'he MiddleA.qes

Troild6mr in Early Medieyal Scandinauia

Dorbjqrn and his Fostermother Fighting thc Outlau., Crettir


Neither equiprlrent nor symbols are mentioned in tsuslubtrn.The text colrcerltrates entirely on the spoken word. It is nrost likely that the poerr-r existecl as an individual text which the saga author rnade use of in a
l1ew context. Spells r.vere thought of as useful for distinct purposes, such as attempts to n.ranipulate lveather and love, and at hindering ar1 opponent, and they are in tlrat sense close to the catalogues of Hiuamil, Sigdriliunil and other Eddic poenrs. A conrparison could be made between Buslubcen and the second Old High Gernran Mersebr.rrg Charrn. Both texts are constrlrcted in terrns of a direct confrontation.The speakers are directly adclressing the

sollrce of trouble.There seerns to be a certain psychology ir.r the conviction that there are bc'lrefits ir-r facing a complicated situation with direct speech es a counteraction. Busla is threatening and plays with the double nature of trolld|mr.With its clivergent possibilities she cannot only release the prisoners, but rnust alsc> put a curse on the reluctant king.

Pcrformed Malcuolence

Sinister ch:rracters, r,vho operate on behalf of themselves or others, are far nrore frequent in the sagas than actual divination rituals. A certain pattern appears in connection r,vith these actions of performed malevolence.There is always a sender, i.e. the person who performs or acts, who has the knorvledse needed.This character is not always visible frorr-r the beginning. The act can be perfornred in great secrecy, and it can be part of the plot and the narrative strateliy not to reveal the cause of the rnisfortune until nruch later in the text" The sender always r-nakes use of an instrunrent to ahieve the goal. It can be the spoken word: a song, a fornrula or some kincl

An eiaborate story of performed rnalevolence can be read in Grettis saga one of Grettir'.s enemies, Forbjgrn Qngull, wants revenge ,rrrd the reward for killing the outiaw Grettir. Despite the fact thar Grettir ls en outlaw the reader'.s sympathies are with him. He has caused a great ,lcal of tr:ouble but is certainly not characterized as an evil perso,. And l'orbjern is also fully aware of the fact that he cannot overcome Grettir'.s srcater strength with ordinary means. He needs old-tinre knowledge. ( irettir's nlother has previously warned her son, when interpreting an .nrinous dream, that he will never leave the island where he has ('r)trenched hinrself, and she has also given him the advice to keep away lirrnr knowiedgeable persons (ch. 69). Her words are also a hint that her \()r) cannot escape his destiny. Knowing that Grertir is forceful, Dorbjgrn ,rsks his fostermother Duridr ro slrpport him. The old wonran is said to lr.rve been of great knowledge in her younger da.vs, and describecl as liplkunnig njqk og margkurutig mjpk, perhaps rhe mosr frequent terms ro r Irrrracterize knowledgeable people. Her age nrakes her a representative of ,rrrcient traditions and lore. The text relates her explicitly to the old relir1i.n, in contrast to the new custol11s. Dorbjern is making use of his fosterTu and onwards. rrrother's knorvledge and once again the question can be raised whether a l)rrrely negative characterization of what is done in the narne of trolkl|mr is

of spell. Most ofter-r it ir.rvolves an act, elaborate or simple, or even a full ritttal. Some texts nrention the use of concrete objects, like blood or a piecc olwoocl. Signs and syrnbols like runes can be included.The intricate question of the use of the runes rnust be discussed in this context.The senderls use r>f the instmrnent(s) airrs at a result. Sornething nrust be changed irr favour of the person who initiates the perfonrance, not necessarily thc sender. Flor.vever, it nrust be renrenrbered that sirlilar rituals were used ftrr gaining prosperity, healing, ar-r d protection. It is therefore inrportant to ask: ntalevolence frortr whosc perspectivc? T1're sagas, as any other texts, are never neutral. Most explicitly tl-rey tell of rr slrrvey of events fronr a certain farnily'.s point olview, rrnr:rlglrrrrrted with lll the loyalties, aninrositics, ancl tcrrsiorrs of thc sr()up. 'liolldr\rur rituals rrrt' oftcn sttpposcd to bc exct-tttcd iln'r()lrg tht'r'rrt'nrics:rs:rrr irrrlit':rtion of h<lw [r:rtl tlrcv r-cllly rrrt'. Ilvcrytlrirrg t'lst' irr r slgil t('\t rrr:rv Irr' o[rst'rrrt', btit tlrc t'otttlit ts :rr.' :rlrl'.rvs lrrt itl itr tlre [11v1.

'fhe knowledgeable woman's strategy towards such a strong opponenr is .rt tion in several stages. She asks Dorbjgrn repeatedly to follow her insrructr.,s, dc), A process of careful considerarion slowly begins, rr.thing is done hastily, and over and over again it is repeated that Dorbjprn rnrrst follow the o1d woman's advice exacrly. Alter a long time Duridr r((lr.lcsts him to go to Grettir on Drangey. She wants to accompany hinr, lrrtlden in the boat so that she can make her inrportant calculations of the Ir,rttrirrqja of the victims - then she can decide what words are suitable ,rrl.rinst them. She nrakes a prognosis about how mr-rch luck they have,a3 .rrrtl tells Dorbjgrn of the difficulties he will have to struggle against. lt will rr,t lre-an easy victory, the fosternrother can foresee, ancl he must be prel,.rlt'd for adversity to begin with. And of urnrost inrporrance he rnust ,lt'P1'11i otr hcr and I'rer decisions completely. Duridr follows the company ,rrrto thc island to have a look ;rt (lrettir anc.l l.ris nrcn. Apperently; shc has tlrt'c:rp:tcity to cttttc.lttct a firrrrr of nrclrtal X-rly.Aftcr hcr observuticlns slrc
r,rr) stirte tlrrrt they rlrc str()ug, [rtrt rvitlrotrt lrrck, /r,rrrrirrq joltttsir, i.e. rvitltout It,tttritt.qit.'l'ltcrc:rfter sltt' is 1r11'1r;11't'.i t,r r'orr6-orrt tlrcrrr. Witlr lll tlris p6rver Irrl irrlirnrltiorr slrt' l:rys ( irt'tti' rrrtlt'r-ir ( rrrs(' tlr:rt rv.r-ks ,rs ,r P1i.1lj1.1j1y;1 1yflroy1, 1lr.' [r;rl,rrrr't' of'norvt.r' rr'rll, lr.rrrr,.,.:

rt':rlly appropriate. From Duridr's perspective she is only supporting her ,,wn kins{blk against their mutual enemies.


W'itchcrdft dnd Mdgir


Europe :Tlrc Middle Ages

T[o11d6mr in Early Medieual



'Now I curse yoLl, Grettir, to be deprived of all favour, all endowments and fbrtune, all defence and wisdonr, the t.uore so the lor-rger you live. I trust that you lvill have ferver days of happiness in the future than yor.r
have had



With her uttered rvords she takes away not only his luck and fortune, Sipl ok grc-fd,but also all possibilities of help and wisdonr. Frotn Grettir'.s answer we can gather that he knows that he has lost: 'No lvords have ever unsettled nre more than those that she spoke.'aa His reaction against the old woman is very violent, not because she represents paganism, but because is tl-rreatening him r,vith her knowledge. Most of all he is afraid of her spoken lvorcls, beir-rg well aware of his rnother's predictions. He throrvs a
larse stone at her and her 1eg breaks. Helga Kress has noted the sitnilarity between Grettir's behaviour against Durid and custom of stoning persons accused of trolldtSmr to death. The conflict with the knorvledgeable trlnrs out to be a vital part of this plot too, only it ntust be noted that this tinre there is no Christian opposition as in other scenes of the sagas. Dorbjgrn is very disappointed w'ith the trip to l)rangey, but I>uridr carr conrfort him; this is only the beginning of Grettir's hard times. I>orbjqrn still thinks he has r.nade a lool of hinrself, e:Iger as he is for imnrediate results. Nevertheless, a lclng tinre passes before the old wolran nrakes her second irlove - the ritual. Since she is severely rnjured in her leg she is carried down to the beach, r,vhere her are carefully described:

lris enenry qpeechless at the pingby

l)istant'powers'seem to gLride Forbjqrg. She is well prepared and can perform an elaborate ritual.'was the snrearing of blood iomething spectacular to the saga audience, as it is to a modern reader? was it . *ry making "r the christian audience understand how cruel the pagan rituals were? It is an elaborate performance, well prepared in several stages. Duridr is probably operating with a piece of wood that has previously been used for trolld6mr. The fosternlother uses her sensitiviry ,rrak.r no over-hasry "rd nloves. Her instruments are the wood and her own blood, the carving of runes and her spell, the spoken word. She sends a tangible object agalnst victim. She is the performer, the mediurn, through *t i.t the wishes of the assigner are sent, although Dorbjgrn is ignorant of ho* and why he has to rely on her. Some texts stress the importance of physical contact when trclld\mr is performed, such as vatnsdela saga 44 r"h.r. Dorkell can make

the text discussed rhe nroment of touch seems to be the iurningpoint for cvents to so in a new direction. Powerfi.rl forces are let loose and the results are bound to be quickly evitlcnt. Grettir twice tries to avoid contact with the piece of wood, having a sense of danger,but the third time it is brought to the house by the thrill. when chopping it up for firewood Grettir is wounded and is thereafter a wcak and vulnerable target for his enernies. Duridr's deeds have fulfilled rvhat Grettir's mother had foreseen in her dreams ancl warned her son

touchini him with a spdkrna'swand. In

He did as she recluestecl, and when she reached the shore she hobbled along by the sea as if follor.ving directions,until she carne to a tree lying ther:e, a stub with the roots on, big enough to have to be carried on a nran's shoulders. She looked at the tree and asked the men to tttrn it over for her. The underside looked burnt and rubbed down. She nrade them scrape a flat sudace where the tree had been rubbed, then took her knife and carved runes into the root, stneared them with her blood and recited spells. Then she walked backwards and withershins around it, and spoke many mighty prolloLtncenlents upon it. After that she had the tree pLlt to sea, prorlor.lncing that it should drift out to l)rangey,'and nray it harm Clrettir in every *"y.''+5
The olcl wonran is consistently obeyed and the young nran is loyally giving her assistance. Clandestine forces are guiding the fbstertnother. Her ttlovenrents in rvalking backr,vards, cottnter-clocklvise, rnake the ritual appear strange, as ancient ancl exotic as the clothirxa of dtc uglra irt L'irift-s -sa.g,r r,lrrda.The use of the woocl arrcl thc can,iug of nrncs rnight be cotttparecl to lrlrrid, ritttal clellinr:rtiorr (r,n,hclr clestrltctive rtlllcs arc crtrvccl irrtr> a trcc)' Aqain thcrc lrc rc:rsorlrblc rr:u-r:rtivc l)rrrl)()scs firr thc cottspit'ttotts scclrcry; tltr';rtrtlror's irrtt'rrtiorr is.tpp:rr-t'rttly to rtt:tkc tltt'stolv s,'t'ttt tl,l,l:rrrtl oltl.

There are both sirnilarities and differences when Duridri deeds are com1r;rred to the seidr performed by Irorbjgrg litil-uqlua on Greenland. The srrnre terminology is used for their capacities. Divination is performed, cal, trlations and predictions are made, but the intention behinJ the act differs , .nrpletely. Crettis saga tells of an exclusive private ritual where the goal is .nly to harm and eliminate the enemy. Furidr's ritual is a private ceremony lirr the benefit of an individual and her kin, an affair of interpersonal and rrrtcrfamily conflict, not an event shared by a local communiry.

Kotkell Perfrtrms Seidr Ti.uicc u,ith his Fanill,

Arr.ther story of sorlre length about perfornred nralevolence comes from l.,t.t'do'la -sarra (ch.35fr.). It differs fronr tl-re account i-t Eir{ks saga rauda in r,'vcrrrl irrteresting rnatters.The trolldtirur is perfon.ned by male piactitioners I.r' errtirely c-lcstrtrctivc rcasous arrcl the activitics are strongly condenrned. l'lrr' s:rrrrc kirrrl of sot'icty firrnrs tlrc blcksnrurrrl, but h I-ixita,ta -saga other lltt'tttt's rtrt' ilr fot'rrs. It rclls ol'lrort, I(otkcll ;rrrrl Iris f;rrtrily his wife ancl l\\() 1l11)\vl) tll) \()ll\ 1rt'tlirt ttt ( ('t('tn()rli('\ t.rusirr11 tlt..ttlt .rrrtl tlis.tstcr ilt


Wirchcraft and Magic in Europe:The Middle Ages

Trolld6mr in Early Medieual



the local community. It is interesting to note how the family acts together in these rituals and how they are treated as a group, not primarily as individuals. The succession of knowledge is evidently conceived of as kept within the fanrily, to give a flavour of uninterrupted transmission. In some sense Kotkell himself takes the lead as head of the family, but there is no obvious gender division in the performances expressed in the text. No action is commented on as unmanly or with any equivalent terrn, but rather as immoral and, above all, foreign. The family is said to be from the Hebrides and to be newcomers to Iceland.'When introduced, these people are given a description with negative connotations: 'all of them skilled in witchcraft fmjqkfiqlkunnigl and accomplished magicians lmestu seidmen )'.16 Their foreign origin is emphasized in the episode and ethnicity serves here very clearly as a marker of otherness (Sayers 1992:133ff.). Soon they are involved in local conflicts and Kotkell is offering the family's skills as a way of establishing allegiances in the new place. The family is said not to work particularly hard to support itself, which might indicate that they were also suspected of using their abilities and trollddmr knowledge to gain prosperity without hard labour. Such abilities are labelled'magical rnilk theft'in later Scandinavian fblklore and were literary and iconographic motifs on the Continent during the Middle Ages. In the Christian context both theological discourse and more didactic anrbitions to explain the origins of evil were focused on the devil as a character. Such a figure could be used to visualize the sum and substance of the message existentially and ontologically as well as mythologically. The very existence of devils and demons was constantly confirmed by the Church in sermons, ceremonies and iconography. The attributes of these creatures that were irnpressed during the process of Christianization and further on during the Middle Ages have their origin in ancient Greece and the NearEast.All over Europe the Christian mission could identifli the demonized gods with the devils and
fiends with cloven hoofs, tails and horns. Many stories, motifs and themes in the Old Norse literature are adaptations from a widespread Continental corpus of texts and pictures. -fhe Laxddd text does not give any details of the ceremonies,but rather a striking and detailed picture of the conflict pattern behind thenr. First, the fanriiy members are accused of theft and of being knowledgeable, pi6;fnadr okJjqlkynig,and are condemned to outlawry. However, there is never a fornral trial at the Alpingi, since Kotkell and hrs farnily imrnediately take up the struggle against the accusation by performing -seidr with dramatic cor.rsequences. Kotkell raises a seidhlallr and the whole fanrily gets Lrp to sing


make use of local conflicts just as they are used themselves by people in the * in transactions between the families:

the direction being clearly upwards, but no technical explanation is given. The core of the ceremony seems instead to be the use of the spoken word, in_ the for,r of powerful songs.47 The ceremony is a joint effort by the whole fanily with a direct and fatal effect. This trolld\mr acrion leads to an escalation of the conflicr and people in the area want rhe Kotkell family killed (ch. 36). once again the family

Forleikr then approached his tenants, Kotkeil and Grima, to ask them ro to discredit Hrftr [Dorleikr's enemy]. They agreed readily and prornised to ger righr to work.48
take some action

farmhouse - is a powerful image of the contrast between outside and inside, of being part of society and in a double meaning standing outside it (ch.37).This situation corresponds more than in any other deslription of seidr to the mythological struggle berween aggressive destruction and cosmological order, between the misfits and the settled. After the death of the boy, full revenge is inevitable. Kotkell and his wife are soon found and sroned to death. That place is thereafter called Skrattavardi, a derivation from skratti and seidrskralfi, other related terms for people of knowledge and destructive powers. The burial-mounds of such persons could be dangerous, as the Laxdela saga tells further on in another context (ch.76). A very pious christian woman is disturbed during her ,ightly prayers and when the floor is opened on the recommenclation of a returning dead:

For the second time the family performs a seidr ceremony together. The song is said to be very beautiful but also strange. It is directed towards a certain person, who understands the purpose and therefore forbids his people to leave the house during the night. But to the young son of the house the sounds of the seidr are irresistible and he walks out ;f the house only to fall dead irnmediately. This is quite similar to what happened to Fidrandi in ltidranda pdttr,who was enticed out of the house anJ kiled by the d{sir. ln Laxdela s4g4 norhing is said about which powers or beings actually kiil the boy - just that the sounds of the rorg horrr the Kotkells overpower him. The scene - with the foreign family singing outdoors in the night, while the local people have entrenched therruelves inside the

gdldr songs. As a result a stornl arises and causes the death of Kotkell'.s antagonists at sea.The fanrily uses the scidlldllr, ar.r object of obscure cc>nstrlrction th:rt is also nrentionccl in l:iriks stqa rrltr)rr,.rS tlrcir collcctivc ctlttil.rtttt'ttt.'I'lrc text strcsscs thlt tlris olr-jcr't is r'lirrrlrr'rl lry tlrc [ro'tirnrrcrs,

u,der the ground they found bones, which were brackened a,d horrible, along with a chest pendant and a large magician'"s staff lseidstafr nrikilll. People therr dc'cided that a prophetess ruusr have been buried here luq>lulti<)i,:r prophctcssls sravel.J"he bones wcre urovecl to a relllote
pllcc littlc ti-ccltrlrrtt'tl l,y rrrcrr.'r"



ol tlrt. ,rltl lrprrcs r.6trlrl rret

Lrc 6vt.rr.er1c. 'l'ltc


Wixhcraft and Magic in Europe :The Middle Ages

to1ld6mr in Early

Madieual Scandinauia


renrains of the uglua could be moved, but their power could not be completely destroyed. The trolld6mr and seidr story in l-axdela saga is skilfully woven around a series of actions and counteractions.The accusations of theft and extraordinary knowledge lead to a spiral of conflicts with violent deaths and great anger among the local people.The final revenge and the punishments of the Kotkel family are undertaken by the local people without any formal trial. No general classification of seidr can be made according to the temrinology in use, since only a vague distinction as to the intention of the rituals is adopted as a narrative tool by the saga authors. Still, cornpared to Eiriks saga rauda 4 there are some similarities of interest, even if the purpose of the acts are entirely di{Ierent. In both texts the scenes of the seidr cerernonies are focused on the singingon the hjallr,bot there is no technical information. Obviously the equipment is of less interest than the power and effect of the spoken word. In both texts the trolld()mr knowledge is considered to be of old times and associated with geographical fringes, Greenland and the Hebrides.

conres from contact with destructive powers. Some lyrical catalogues were previously discussed, predonrinantly in Eddic poetry with advice, threats and possibilities - the 'gnornic discourse rype'as Margaret clunies Ross calls thern (1990: 221).They forrn long lists oicapa-

lrilities and of knowledge attainable after training and strt[gle . Hiuainit tcrnpts with the knowledge and understanding of many clandesiine nlatters:

l)o you know how to carve, do you know how to interpret,

do you know how to stain, do you know how to test out, do you know how to ask, do you know how to sacrifice, do you know how to dispatch, do you know how to slaughter?so (trans. by Larringron 1996:35)

Apotropaic Acts and Rituals

Although the introduction to this section speaks of 'seidr for better or worse'I find it reasonable to deal with the positive aspects of trolld\rur and seidr in a briefer part at the end. There are fewer Old Norse texts focusing on healing (Dutsois 1999:93ff .),but on the other hand there is more comparable material from the Continent. Among these protective practices we will not frnd any descriptions of grand rituals or elaborate cerenronies, merely modest acts of protection against what wrre conceived as trolld|mr assaults. In this catelory of rejecting diffuse negative influence I also include different attempts to achieve relief from physical and mental disease. Seeking to arouse or subdue love follows basically the same pattern. Stories of trolld6mr attacks do not always end with the person aimed at being harmed; they are in most cases followed by apotropaic acts and rituals concerned with revealing the sender and the source of the assault.Thesccounteractions were based on the same nlethods and theories as the pri* mary attack. One way was to attempt to harm the attacker'.s ternporary body in order to accomplish an analogous injury on his or her ordinary body. This visible mark had a triple function. It was a punishrnent, it revealed the guilty parfy to the public and finally the counteraction servccl as a cure and the trolld1nrr attack was obstructed (l\atrclverc 1993:173ff., 1995).lllness and nrischicf were conceivecl to bc scnt 6rlru otrtsidc, lbllowing the cttttccpttr:tl firrrrcwrlrk oltltc t'onflit't bctwcerr irrsitlc antl outsidt.. Firllowirrg tlris prtttt'rrr, krrowlctlgc of-lrolv to Ir;rttlc ;rs:rirrst rrristirr-ttrrrc rlso

L a healing perspective, parts of Hituamdl and sigdrfiundl of the poetic Edda ,rrc of special interest, as in both poems the rnetre of spells is used. ,\i.qdrifimil is an excursus from the heroic Sigurdr cycle (known in old I lish Gernrarr versions as well) and the better part of ihe poen, consists of stunzas on the knowledge of runes and the art of carving and chanting tlre,r (Andersson .l980: u1fr., 101ff.).The introductory prose tells of how tlrc hero Sigurdr finds a sleeping person surrounded by a wall of shields. when Sigr-rrdr slits the clothes with his sword what first.seerns to be a nran, tlris'he', turns out to be a wonlan. She prese.ts herself as a valkyrie, and tlr.rks the hero for re-scuing her fro,r her deep sieep by giving him the I.rrg catalogue of useful runes, that is healing iorrgr. accolainf to Anne I Ici,rich,'Sigurd'.s encounter with her can be viewed as the finillpisode of lris vouthful educarion'(19it6:115).Two of rhe stanzas (4, 1l) refei directly t. healing practices, while the others are either nlore general or speak of vrctory, revenge etc. Before chanting the runes the wonian offers Sigurdr a lrtrrrr of nread, which gives strength to his ,re,rory, ninnisuel.g, and pro,rises rvrsclo,r,,righry spells and healing ha,ds.s1 Then he is readylo learn: 'Limb-runes you nlust know if you want to be a healer and know how to see to wounds; on bark they nrust be cut and of the tree of the wood on those whose branches bend east.,52 (trans. by Larrington 1996:168) lrr ()lcl Norse literature nrany things harmful to the individr_ral body, to lrrr k .r prosperity or to the fa.rily or kingroup, were conceived of as pro;t'ttilcs.Therefore, powerful words and rituals were nsed to stop th...t ,,ltt'rr visualized as an rrrow, a nrissile ainred at a crertain target by a " clistincIr'r' scndcr. A vcrbal pr<r.jcctio, cotrlcl be as cffcctivc ,,r., .,ir*..'., physical ',trt'rrstlr.'l-he sls;rs tcll of- tlifli.rcrrt w:tys oI rrnkirrq weilp()l)s 1.,,x,vc,rfLrl, of.

r'ivirrg.f siglrt rrrrtl .l'rv,rrrrl<'r'firl lrclrrrcts .f irrvisibility. Not orrly lrrrnr.rns lrrrlrl Irt,sul)l)()t.t('(,|, Irrrt.rls,., t..rtrlt.,rlrtl otlrt,r



Witchcraft anrl Magic in Europe:The Middle Ages

Tiolld6mr in Early Medieual



anirnals. The same type of verses and spells are found in large numbers in later Scandinavian folklore. The Anglo Saxon charms also give r-nany examples of spells against physical illness caused by elves and demons: elf-

shot, elven race, dwar{i, etc. (Grendon 1909:208;Page 1964;Gay 1988). Healing physical and mental pain or even raising the dead is the explicit ainr of some Eddic galdr songs. Not only Odinn but also Freyja can be associated with curative processes. Probably it is Freyja who speaks in Fjqlsuinnsmii 49 where an interesting intermingling of healing and sexual

reward given to the seidr performers.

New runes, apparently more powerful, are cut by Egill and the young wonlan is freed from her paralysing weakness. Egill is said to be generously rewarded by the family, in the sarne manner as the direct piyment or

longing emerges: Long I waited on Lyfaberg day on day I waited for you; now it has happened,

A particular aspect of healing through spells is the aid given to women at childbirth (Mundal and Steinsland 1989: 104f.; Morris 1993: 7gtr.). sigdr{;fumil 9 mentions what are called bjargriltTar, rLtnes rhat can help at delivery. It is interesting to note that Sigrdrifa's advice in the long catalogue of charms is directed to a man.The stanza relares to help,healing and strength in general.
'Helping-runes you must know if you want to

I anticipated,

my lover, you have come to nry (trans. by Robertson 1991:84)

and release children from women; they shall be cut on rhe palms and clasped on the joints, and then the d{sir asked for help.'s: (trans. by Larrington 1996: 168)

The verb ffia is not very common in Old Norse, but in later Scandinavian languages it is quite frequent and forms several compounds like /r75a and lAuja in association with trollddmr and healing. The iatter form is used by Christian writers before and after the Reformation as a broad ternr for ali kinds of paganism and superstition. In Old Norse the nouns taufr and ly.f can reGr to knowledge of healing, but are mostly used in their negative meaning of damage or destruction. Egik saga Skalla-Cr{mssonar 72 gives a lucid example of the process of action and counteraction in a healing procedure per{ornred by Egill himself. A young woman is laid up in bed, weak and feeble, due to runes cut against her. She is described as the victim of a rejected suitor, who had failed in his attempt to handle the runes. Instead of raising love he had caused her illness. Apparently the knowledge of rune carving was not easily accessible. Due to his sufficient knowledge, Egill finds the runes, cut on a fish-bone, in the woman'.s bed and immediately burns it. Thereafter, as a confirmation of the faiiure of the unskilled carver, Egill sings:

fbrtility deities. Not only the female disir were challenged. In oddrrinargritr other nrythological beings are addressed by oddnin when trying to help with delivery pains. It can be noted that the old Norse text mentions the vrrtir. Like the disir this is a group of a collective character, living nearby the farmhouse under familyJiki conditions, but not exclusively female. In later Scandinavian folklore there is a grear number of legends telling of females from the 'little people' coming to help women in childbed. Along with the vrttir od&rin asks the gldclesses

There is a distinct physical contact between the helper and the wonran in need. The runes on the hand serve as mediators for the healing power. Nothing is said here about whether a,y special ritual was needed-to get help from the disir, but it seems that the powerful spoken word couldte accompanied by some kind of ceremony in favor,rr of these protective

Frigg and Freyja for help:

No man should carve runes unless he can read them well;

nlany a n1an goes astray around those dark letters. On the whalebone I saw ten secret letters carved, from them the linden tree [i.e. wornan] took her long hair.5a (trans. by Scudder 1()97 143)

'May all the kindly beings help you, Frigg and Freyja and more of the gods, as you warded away that dangerous illness from me.,s6 (trans. by Larrington 1996:206) 'l'he Anglo Saxon charrns also offer help at delivery with ceremonies that t'onrbine the spoken word with prescribed bodily rnovements:
For delayed birth

Let the woruan who c:rnr.rot bring forth her child g. ti> the grave of a wise rrrarr,:rrrd stcl-r thrcc tirrrcs <lvcr thc grlrvc,:rrrtl thcrr sly thcsc worcls thrcc tirrrcs:


Witclrcrqft and l4dgic in Europc:The L/tiddlc Ages

Trolld6mr itt Enrly lllcdieyol Scartdhmvitt


This be nty cure for the loathsome late-birth, This be my cure for the grievous swart-birth, This be nty cure for the ioathsome iame-birth.s7 (trans. by (]retrdon 1909:207)

will. As in the later nredieval ballads rvith their abducted brides



As in nuny spells, words and ritual gestures are combirred, in this case along rvith frequer-rt triads of repetition.The visit to the grave oithe helper is, as discussed above, a metaphor used in Eddic poetry. When it cornes to the ritual aspects of the AIrglo-Saxou chartn quoted above, it could be interprered in two ways - either as genuirtely descriptive, indicating that panpi. actually went to such a grave, or in ternrs of the introcluctory lir-re telling of the rvise rvonrant grave functioning as a form of invocation giving legirinracy to the following three lines. The latter way of reading the teit would indicate a rather obvious sinrihritv with the fortnulaic elements of Eddic song tradition. Trolld6mr and


Texts dealing with the atnorous aspecrts of trolld\mr ;rre nruch l1lore scarce than those concerned rvith the clestrLlctive. Interestingly they mirror the sanle attitLtdes and methods as the descriptions of nralevolence

(Ellis Davidson 1973: 33; Holtsmark 1980; Moller-christepsen 19tl(); Mundal and Steilsland 19t19; Seyers 1992; I)anrico 1993; Morris 1993: 771T.).The therne of arousing love in ()ld Norse literature is not so nluch a question of stories of affection and tenderness, but has to do with the pro..rr of gaining power over another persoll; the corlflict patterrl is rts
apparent as ever.

Skirniynil in the Poctic Edda can serve as a sootl exatlrple (Larrington 1992). Skirnir. the servant of Freyr, is sent to propose to a gi.rnt wonlan, Gerdr. Since she is unrvilling and rejects him frorn the beginning,trolld|mr and runes are ttsed to rru'eaketr her:

' "Cliant" I carve on you atrd three runes:

lewdness and frenzy and unbear:rble desire; thus I can rub that off, as I carved that on, if there is need of this.'s8
(trans. by

Larrington 1996:67)

Gerdr cannot resist the porverful runes fiorn the suitor and uives trp her resistance.A tone of cruelry and violence is present throtrghout the poetlt. The young wolnan is exposeci to thc clprice of n sttpr:rior titrcc.Acttrllly it is prtt .r r1ri,.'sti6n oFlxrr.rsiug lovc, btrt of brr':rkirrg tlorvtt tItc ()tllcl'l)('rs()ll's

for rape. Saxo tells of how C)dinn punishes a reluctant youllJ nristress by touching her rvith a piece of bark inscribed with spells (lII:71). The harsh trolld6nr against reluctant lovers is used by both rnen and rvotren.W'hen the lrd,.a llppears in bj6dolfr\ poenr Ynqlrruganii it is the first supernatural category to be given a nanle in Old Norse literature. The ternl is etymologically related to the Indo-European root *tnr,'to crush', which is nrost interesting considering the actions ascribed to it in some texts.The nar(l ts a transfornred and dissuised hunran being and, in contrast to other nrore 'collective'beings, acts purposefully as an individual, often erotic irnplications.The srorv of kingVanlandi'.s painful death is told "vitl.r in three different early texts, all part of the legendary history of theYngiing tirmily. Tl-re kings all suller nrysterious deaths, each one rtrore astounding than the previous. (Krae 1991:1t)21.,l93f.;Rausing 1993).The third stanza tn Ynglingatal is the shortest and earliest version of the events, focusing on rhe nronrent of dearh, when a denron tramples on :rnd stiflesVanllndi. No re:lson is given rn this text for the conflict between Vanlandi and the t{enron. The being attacking the king is spoken of in the fen'rinine and given three significant nalnes: 'she' is called 'creature of trolld\mi, (uitta lrr'tfr),'night strlrggle' Qrimhildr) and nrdra, and her dernonic ortgin, errrphasized. Her purpose, horvever, is clear-cut - killing the king. Srrorrii prose adaptation of the poen1, Ynglinga -iaga, gives a ltlore detailed .rccoLrnt of the cause of the king'.s death.Accordtng to SnorriVanlandi abaniloned his wifb Drifa anrl did not keep his promise of a pronrpt retlrrn to lrer in Finl.rnd.Therefore, Drifa asked the seidAona Huldr to perfornr -scidr to rrrrkeVanlandi conre back or die.-5e Drifa is, according to Snorri, a-finnkona (l'age 1963). Such liaisons are ahv.rys dangerous in Old Norse texts, and rvhenVanlandi in Sweden feels a sudden Lrrge to go to Finland his company try to stop hinr. Tlrey inrmecliatelr, sltspect the Finns.('(r But king Vanlandr lirlls asleep pardysecl. calling out that a mdrd is pressine hiur, ar mara trad /r,rrzn. Snorri gives a forceful inrage of the helpless king and of horv the mara ,'nrshes the deceitful king's legs and finally stifles him to death. Tlre Latin chronicle Historia Aloruegia, is rrs short as Ynplingttttll when it (onres to tellirrq of the painful death of kingVanlandi. But all three texts rrterrtion the narne martt, whch in later Scandinavian folklore is also a rnrue for a heing assclciated r,,ith lustful wonlen mking revclrge on reluctiu)t nlen (l{audvere 1993, 1995). Conrponents vital to ,?,, texts over lrtrrrdreds oltye'ltrs are already nranifest in the story of kingVanlancli, includirrs not <>nly a suflbcrrting victinr, but llso a jeelotrs or evil person, often a \v()l)):rI), rv'lro ttscs thc p<>wer of tmnsfirrtttlttion to guin :rtlvlntlrgcs in tclltl)()rary gtrise. Sccrrtingly fiorrr tlrc begirrrriuq. s('x und violcrrr'(':lrc rlt tht.. t orc of-tlrt' Sr';rttrlitt;rviltn sul)('r'n:rtur';tl t't'trcrtgt' slolit's.
less a nretaphoric image

motif this is nrore or



Witchcraft and Magic in Europe :The Middle Ages

Trolld6mr in Early Medieval Scandinauia


Tiolld\mr could serve as an effective weapon in love conflicts and be the cause of inrpotence and disturbed emotional relations. In Kormdks saga young Korrnlkr is the target of D6rveig's curse, he will never have his giri (Davidson 1973; Mundal and Steinsland 1989: 114f{.;Sayer 1.992:141ff.). As discussed in the first chapter, the knowledgeable woman can attack Korm6kr from a far distance and in a temporary guise.The saga has a complicated plot of conflicts, power, loyalties - and love. When D6rveig utters the harsh words that the young man will never enjoy his beloved Steinger6r,61 Kormlkr immediately strikes back verbally:'You will have no say whatever in that, you evil woman.'62 The verb rdda is used with the same significance here in the context of a curse as it is in connection with divination rituals. FIe cannot change what is once uttered and he does not have the abi1iry to compete with F6rveig's extraordinary insights. And as the following chapter in the saga recounts, Kormikr wins Steingerdr's hand, but fails to appear at the marriage, and she rnarries another man. ln Busluben we noticed that a strong threat from the knowledgeable woman was her power over the king's sexual abilities. Several stanzas in the Eddic poetry also refer to Odinnt power over love and lust.The'Lj5datal' at the end of Hiuamil stresses the god's abilities to turn the minds of young maidens and rnake hirnself attractive (161ff.).Arousing love perhaps sounds sweet, but when Odim is praising his own sedr.rctive po*.iit is in a harsh and rough tone:

note that the metre is the same as in Hiuamll's catalogue of spells. He praising hinrself for har-rnting night riding hags, kueldridur'.

'Atli I'nr called, atrocious I shall be to I am nrost hostile to ogresses;

(trans. by Larrington: 126)


I've often stayed at the dew-washed prow and tornrented night-riding witches lkueldridur)'


Knowledgeable wornen and sexualiry was a theme that recurred in later Christian literature. ''When fernale sexuality conles to the fore, it is usually in a demonic or "Otherworld" context, explicitly or implicitly connected to the pagan past', Margaret Cormak writes in her discussion of sex and the supernatural in Icelandic saints'iives (1992:228). Cunning wonren and their abilities became an inrage of the sedtictive power of the devil. The conrbination of unrestrained lust and tntlld6mr in the writings of witchhunters centuries later, as well as of clergyrnen, continued to solxe extent ir-r Scandinavia into the catechisrns of the Reformation.

Heal or Destroy:The Ambigr.tity




I know a sixteenth if I want to have all

a clever wornan's heart and love-play:

I can turn the thoughts of the white-armed woman and change her mind entirely. I know a seventeenth, so that scarcely any
young girl will want to shun me.63 (trans. by Larrington 1996:37)
Sexual desire is also a vital part of Odinn's relation to supernatural wornen.


As this chapter has indicated, both nrythological narratives and sag;as give tlescriptions of more or less eiaborate rituals perforrned in an attenlpt to :rchieve knowledge of otherwise hidden matters.To some extent the deeds of the gods seern to have formed a prototype for the understanding of the origin and effect of trolldtimr. In sagas some historical and contemporary individuals were conceived to have the extraordinary skills to conduct stch trolld|nr rituals. Knowledge was sought from the outside, from s()Llrces that could be destructive of the social order. The demonic beings of the realm of the giants are often involved, as if knowledge could not be lvith harmony only or be fully operative unless also i.n contact rvith rlisharmony.

Hirbardsljrldi dialogue Hlrbardr (Odinn) boasts about his influence over night riding hags, myrkridur, clainring his potency, miklar nxdnullar (Mundal and Steinsland 1989): 'Mighty love-spells I used on the w-itches, those whom l seduced fronr their men.'64
(trans. by

The .luridical and political decisions of the plnl meetings were acconl1,:rnied by lil6t offerings perfbrmed according to the established custom of society, sldr. While bl6t was conducted among influential men, that is, by tlre godi in local society, -seidr seems to have taken place less formally at
l,rrnrs. It was also a ritual of a highly ambiguous character.The perforrners .rre described as odcl and significantly diflerent in one way or another, ,r..'cr:lrclins to age, ethnicity or social position. Anrongl the perforrners w()lllen play a nrorc uctivc role than otherwise in Olc-l Norse literature. Wlrcthcr this irrdicrrtcs tll:rt w()lr)elr took 1r nr()re dircct prrrt in .srir)r and ,livirlrtiorr ritu;rls otrtsirlt'tlrt'tt'xts is lr rrlrttcr tor tlc[r;rtc. Sorrrt'tcxts sittr:rtc tltc ritrr:rls itt rt'tttolr' l)l.rt t's, lrr,'sttttt:rhly t() str('ss tltt' irtt:rgt' <lf'lrr,rttrt-t's

Larrington 1996:72)

Manuilar and manrilnar are both terms with erotic connotations hinting at the ability to arouse love by the force of trolldtirnr insights (l)./rlsson 1990: 1751if .). The same aggressive atnrosphere snrrouncls 6hs he16is: poerrr Helgakuida Hjgruardssonar 15 where the hcro Atli is irrvolved in l verbal duel with thc giruitcss Hrirrrgcr<)r.'l'lrc torrt'is vcry rrgurcssivc rrrrtl wc c;rrr


Witchuaft and Magic in Europe :Tlte Middle Ages

from days gone by. Many rituals are performed in order to destroy and harm, sometimes on behalf of a person other than the performer. On the other hand, from tirne to time the saga texts stress that the knowledgeable were invited to perform divination rituals, seidr. Insight into the conditions of the forthcoming year was a fornr of knowledge that was eagerly sought after. Seidr and related ceremonies could also be seen as private fertiliry rituals in accordance with the needs of a rural sociery. Vital pre-Christian conceptions can be observed in rnuch later documentation of Scandinavian folk beliefs and folk medicine as regards both form and content.The authority of skilled persons'use of the spoken word for destruction or healing is apparent over a long period of tinre. In popular discourse this was not explicitly expressed as an opposition against the Church (although clergymen after the Reforrnation definrtely regarded it as such) but as a way of handling rnore or less clandestine powers. Cornpared to the world of the Norsemen very little is known about the ritual practices of other Germanic peoples on the Continent. When it comes to trolld6mr, there are no texts comparable to the Eddas or the sagas. FIowever, correspondences can be observed with Old High German and Anglo-Saxon poetry, especially in the use of charms and spells. Not only in rletrics and form, but also in content and ideology, this corpus shows striking similarities wrth different Old Norse modes of expressing trust irr the power of the spoken word. Many of the Continental spells combinc uttering with bodily nlovenlents in a way that is familiar front
Scandinavian traditions.


The Legal Code: Law andTiial

As social memory the sagas dealt much with the administration ofjustice, irrcluding accusations of trol.ld6mr. In Iceland time and social space were cxplicitly allotted for trials. The rules for these events represent a circunrstlntial process of formalization, when a local conflict was to be solved in lrublic. Any accusation or other issue should always be brought to public krroweldge in due time before negotiations could start. Since the code of Ir,ruour is so visible as an irnportant matter in the saga texts. it is interesting to speculate on what was thought of people who took the law into their

The knowledgeable could also use their special knowledge to perfornr to bring injury and misery to others. [n this perspectivc trolld\mr was malevolent performance as a strategy of handling difficult situations. Most protective actions taken to avert trolls and illness follow thc same pattern: both actions and speech directly face the source o{ trolldtimr using parallel motions. Aiming back was the only way of defence. As expressed in the literature, trolldimr was acted out in rituals and forrnalized speech as well as in paradigmatic nrythological narratives. A thircl mode of expressing the complex conceptions of knowledge, destructiott
and healing was the interplay between accusations and trials.

,rwn hands.The killing of a person connected wtth trolldt5mr was not always Iollowed by revenge or legal proceedings; rather, the spontaneous revenge rvrrs in some cases conceived to be a praiseworthy deed. The Old Norse texts reveal several different strategies regarding people rvlro were sr,rpposed to perform trollddmr and cunning deeds. Some of them rvcre dealt with directly, while others faced formal trials. The cases were tlrcrl treated like any other criminal case and followed an established set of rrrles. Compared to other aspects of social organization the sources provide tlrc modern reader with quite a lot of useful information.

The Oral LautThdition

llro early laws of the Norsemen were orally transmitted and are only l.rrown as echoes in the first written legal documentation, Crigis, and in rlr(' sxgas (Dennis, Foote and Perkins 1980). However, names of insticutions .rrrtl posi.tions used Iong after the introduction of Christianiry give hints .rlrotrt the organization of the oral law. It is generally assumed that the laws \\'('r'c anlor1ll the first texts in Scandinavia to be written down. Crigis,liter.rlly'(irey (]oose'because of the erey cover to one of the nranuscripts, is a rrrrxctl collection of lcg:tl rtranrrscripts oltthe so-callecl Icelandic colulrlorlrvt',rltlr (Fix 1993u).'['lrc tcxts wclc brought toscthcr in l flrst conrl.rouncleci lor n1 t,"r1r'tps us crrrly ;rs tlrt' lrrtt' twclftlr ('cntrrry,:rrrtl cxprcss thc lcgal cotle lr()nr tltc titttc ol tltt's:r1,,,rs. Ilowt'vt'r, tlrt'llrtto':rirrr lrt rllrys p:rst rvlrilc tlrc

lrr corrtrast to trolld|mr, the concept of law was a cortlllonly accepted and rrsctl abstract ternt. Tiadition recounts that law was brought to Iceland lrorrr Norway with some of the first settlers, landnimsmenn (Fix 1993b).


Witchuqft and Magic in Europe:The Middle Ages years,

Tro11d6mr in Early Medieual



former mirror the morals of contemporary time, and in between there is more than one drastic shift in social life. In contrast to the sagas, the laws were explicitly Christian texts that based their authority on the new religion. No obvious distinction was made between trollddmr deeds, divination, healing or bl6t o{ferings.These acts were all conden-rned as pagan. There was a reciprocal relationship between the introduction of written culture and other important social and cultural changes in Scandinavia. The dcvcloprnent of kingdonrs and territorial states was parallel to that of state authority and the establishrnent of national legal codes. This process went along with an acceleration in the establishment of the first urban communities and the introduction of a monetary economy. All these changes during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries strengthened Scandinavia's links to Continental Europe even r11ore. In many respects these radical changes led to processes of institutionaltzation of public 1ife, among these the organization of legal matters. Due to the political and cultural conflicts, Iceland did not take part in this development to the same extent as did the newly established kingdoms of Nor-way, Sweden and

the lawspeaker held a special position with responsibility proper preservation and transmission of the law and tradition.


The Alpingi, the general annual assembly, was the foremost uni$,ing political factor in the absence of state authority.According to tradition the institution was founded in 930 and meetings were held for a few weeks cvery summer. The legendary history of the foundation of the Alpingi gives the original number of chieftains as thirry-six. A special area with no permanent buildings was reserved for the assembly. It was a clearly defined social space fbr the leading members of sociery as well as a gendered space since women could generally not speak befbre the Alpingi. The nreetings r.vere certainly not of a purely legal character, but of religious, social and cconomic importance too. The Alpingi was an important opportuniry for trading. It was also a tirle when political power was negotiated and agreenrents of different kinds were made. Long after the establishment of the ( lhurch and national legal codes, this kind of multipurpose meeting kept rts relevance for local social life all over Scandinavia. A legislative assembly :rlso rnet on these occasions, constituted by the most prominentgodar.This
group also elected the lqgsqgumadr, a most honourable position. There were also regionai assemblies in the spring and in the autumn. l'he ping, the assernbly of the local free men, was an occasion for negotiations, decisions and trials (Sandvik 1993). It was an opportuniry to solve Iocal conflicts and disputes and a time when agreenlents were confirmed lry oaths.Very few conflicts involved only individuals.At the ping the male lrcad of a family spoke on behalf of his household. The proceedings of a /,ing were led by a godi, who was also responsible for the bl6t offerings of tlrc neighbourhood. The etymology of the title of the leader godi (frorn q,,t),'god') hints at an original religious interpretation of a position that in tlre days of the sagas and Grigis was mainly a political office. The godi ,rtrviously held a position of power and great influence that was tradition,rlly inherited within the farnily.The stationary system led to the petrificalr()n of conflicts between the stronger families. A godord was not as such a ,lrstir.rct geographical area, but referred to the authoriry that the godi had in rr'lrrtion to his pingmenn.It was a relationship of a contractual character that lroth parties could give up. A godord, like any item of properry could be ,lcllt with in different ways; it could be bought and sold, inherited, given

The arnbition o[ rhe sagl writers was to link their contclnporary tinlc to the world befbre these changes. Before the subrnission to the Norwegian king in 1262-4 there was no state or general state authority ill Iceland. A certain idealizing romanticism flavours the accounts of tinrc past, but based on the conviction that a social order existed from thc beginning. l\egions were ruled by local chieftains, godar.The relationship between the ruler and the local inhabitants formed the basis of a social
network that included both law and religion, among other social activitics. Free men could rnake a treaty of rnutual loyalry with a godl that both parties could annui. The possibilities of local variation nlust, therefore, always colour any reconstruction of the lcelandic judicature.

The Social Organization


the Latu

When the sagas speak of law it is not a national code for lceland that is referred to - as was the case with the Scandinavian codes of the latcr Middle Ages - but local agreements with a more or less explicit coltlrcction with a general assembly for the whole island. I)espite other nlrtjor changes, the sociai organization of the law remained to a large extent rlll(l for a long tinre unchanged and the developtttetrt of tnore fcrrtrlal lcg:rl institutions was a later process. I)ower rclatiorrs wcrc always very visiblc irr the social operatiols surrotrndirrg crinrc uncl prrnislttttcnt. Irr tlrc legrrl sys tcnr of tlrc or:rl r'ulttrrc thc llrwspcrrkt'r, /qrq.iirqrrlr(,()r, nlcrllorizctl :ttttl rccited tlrc l;r'nv;rt.joirrt rrrt't'tirrgs of'tlrr',grrr)rtr. Illt'ttt'tl lirr:t pt'riotl of-tltrt'c

,rwily etc. I)ue


elaborate commerce and other political and social

l)r()cesses, power was consolidated in the thirteenth century into the hands ,rl'rr few fanrilies. Snorri Str-rrluson's life ancl death is a good exar.nple of this ,lt'vclopnrent. Born as he was into the ruling elite he could rchieve lrlore rv.'llth and influcncc through nrarriage, i-rut was rrt tl're surrre tirrrc alscr rnvolvccl irr rrcw t'orrHic'ts. [{is cout;rcts with tlrc Norwcgirrrr kirrg c::ttrsccl ,,rrspir'iort lborrt lris loy:rltir's:trttl un csc';tl:rtiort of tlrc corrflir't lctl to Slrrlrrils nrru'tlt'r'irr l2-ll.l)trirrri tlrrs |t'riorl tll('.(()()()r() wt'rt'rttlt'tl by orrly l fi'w


Witrhcraft and Magk in Europc:'I"he Middle Ages

Trolld5mr in Early Medieual



members of the dominant families. This was the harsh reality, far fronr the idealized accounts of the landnim pertod when the thirry-six godord rvere
supposed to have been settled.

sometimes consist of only a few sentences, being part of a web of gossip

and slander.

Something Has Happened

'l|ial and Rirual

Trials and rituals are in many respects very similar social events. When a trial is analysed in terms of a ritual the legal process becomes a lucid exalnple of the indisputable interconnection between law and religion. In Old Norse texts distinctions between these two areas were not nrade. Both 1aw and religion were regarded as part of sidr, traditional custonl. Through the trial a social conflict was ritualized and a process of formalization - from the private to the public arena - was tuade visible. Paul Connerton's wide definition of a ritual, discussed above, has proved to be helpful in the discussion of Old Norse trolldtimr trials. An advantage of the wide definition is that the difler:ence between religious, political and social activities in many ways becomes irrelevant. At what point, then, should the distinctions between the religious, social, legal and ecouonric characteristics of the ping be n-rade? lf rituals are not limited to specific beiief systems the definition could also cover rnajor upheavals like Christianization or the introduction of Latin written culture. The Old Norse trials seem to have been rule-governed acitivities where certain steps were stipulated. The proceedings of the trial had a symbolic character and the situation was clearly limited in time and space. Both rituals and trials are necessarily occasional, although ntostly regular.They are defined by their relation to everyday life and to the nrainstream, in comparison to which they stand out as events of special importance.The roles for participants in rituals and trials were colttnlonly knorvn and easy to
sagas, accusations of trolld\mr are spoken of nruch nrore often than trials and penalties. Suspicious speech was often used as defamation actual or threat and did not necessarily lead to any legal proceedings in the texts. Williarn Ian Miller writes: 'sorcery accusations in the sagas frequently appear as reactions to untimely death or illness', and continues further on: 'The neat thing about the sorcery accusation was that it foreshortened the causal chain that led to the misfortune'(19i16:110f.). It can be noted that when trolld1rar per{orrners were dealt with and punished this could bt: done in two separate ways. Either the pr-rnisl-rr.nent was the result of I.resotiations at a ping or the people involved took the law into their own hatrcls. The two reactions to asstrnred trolldtlmr deetls clcscribecl irr tlrc s:tsns leltl t<r :r distinction betwecn :lcc()ultts of tirrrrral trirrls rtrrtl llc('() of tltc tttttt'c infitrrrr:rl t>rrcs.'f[rc llrttcr :tK' rrrrrt'lr rrrorc r'()nlnl()r) tltlttt tltt' tirrlltt'r ltlttl

In the

The most elaborate narrative in the sagas of a fornral trial against a person suspected of per{orming trolldt5mr can be read ir.r Eyrbygqla saga 16.In relation to the rest ofthe corpus this text nrust be regarded as an exception because of its length and details.The sequence is focused around guilt, responsibiliry and punishrlent. It suggests a given set of legal rules and a social organization in which trollddmr crimes could be punished and disputes settled. Eyrbyggja saga 1.6 opens at the heart of a conflict. Further events lead to a severe accident that is considered in the neighbourhood to be caused by trolldtimr and one woman is under suspicion.The erotic implications of the trttlld6mr practices in chapters 15 and 16 that cause youni Gunnlaugr bodily harr-n have been discussed above.The intrigue focuses around the struggle between two wonlen with contradictory attitudes towards their trolld|mr skills.These two knowledgeable wolllen do not:rct exclusively on tlreir own but on the periphery of other major fandly conflicts.This confir:nrs the idea that a trolldt5mr conflict never appears on its own. There are nrany layers of dispute and nruch tnore vioience will occur before the saga ('olr1es to its end. Still, these two chapters on trollddmr can be read as a conrplete story in its own right. Both women are old enough to have grown-up sons. Katla is still goodkroking but not very ruuch liked by the local people and her son Oddr is siven an entirely negative characterization:'boisterous and very talkative, a trouble maker and a slanderer'.66 Geirridr on the other hand is just said to bc mdrgkurnrlg,'knowing a lot', and is shown to be willing to pass on her irrsights generously to the younger generation. Katla keeps repeating her invitation to the yolrng man to stay overnight, lrut she is always rejected. Her sneering and insinuating rvords to (iunnlaugr when he refuses to stay the fatal night reveal her coarse manrrcrs and lack of qualities: 'She asked him whether he was going to Mivahlid [Geirridr\ placel again "to stroke the old wotnan's groin" '.67 [-or the young nran the antagonism between the wornen leads to disastt'r; he is found unconscious and severely wounded in the nrorning, after tryirr* to travel on his orvn during the nieht. From a legal point of view tlrcrc is an incident antl l victinr, ancl behincl hinr a whole fanrily.The local rrrtcrprctati<rn is th:rt (itrrrrrl:ru{rr is l.rurt by trolld6nr.lJr-rt there are no witr)('sscs, orrly nrrrrotrls, :rrttl :rn irttrir':ttc corrflict to bc s<tlvcd. ( )tltlr,;rttirrg orr lrr'lr.rll ol'lris rrrotlrcr, ptrts tlrc lrlutttc ort (icirrir)r, tcllilrrr lrt'o[rlt' tlr;rt slrt' ltrrs ,r((,rt kr'tl (itrrrrrlrrugl irs rr rttqlrt lr:rg, /i()i/ ltotttrttt.'l'l'tc


Witchldft and Mqgic in


:'lhe Middle


Trolld6urr in Early Medieual



relatives of the injured therefore want to bring the case before the pirg and they act in a given sequence in accordance with custolll: 'Forbjqrn rode to

Mlvahlid and summonsed Geirridr, accusing her of being a night-rider lkuetdrida) and having caused iryury to Gunnlaug'.('8 The serving of the sunlnlons, when representatives of the prosecutors visited the house of the accused to announce their intentions, was a highly sienifrcant mornent. The announcenlent of the accttsation was a perforrnative act; after this the conflict was a public nlatter and continucd to be so until a decision was made.'What we can gather from the text is that the meeting described was probably a local ping.The term for the charge, kuelrida, shows that Geirridr was accused of being a shapeshifter, a night-riding hag. Frorn the characterization of the two women the reader already knows that the accLlsation is false. On the contrary, Geirridr has tried to warn the young nran against the dangers she could foresee. But the social custotns of gender and speech
made the situation even more complicated.

the institutionalized procedures of the negotiations at the ping. In both cases the question of guilt was the focus and all activities were aimed at finding out the identity of the guilty party. }\evenge was not only a question of stating a righteous punishment; the revealed guilt also threw light on a whole chain of events.But social space for operations in both formal and informal trials was based on conceptions of honour and tradition (sidr);any form of solution, therefore, involved whole famiiies.

Guilt and Responsibilities The fornral trial in Eyrbygja saga 1.6 did not solve the question of who had caused young Gunnlaugr's iryuries; it only freed the wrongly accused party. It was the responsibility of the relatives to find the guilty party. The search for the night hag leads to an informal trial against Katla at Holt in chapter 20. The false rumours had turned out to be a failure, and instead had added shame to an already disliked farnily. Katlat son Oddr was involved in other despicable conflicts in the area.-When his antagonists come to take revenge, his mother makes use of her extraordinary knowledge and makes him invisible.These tricks of hers are the beginning of her
surrender. The enemies only see a distaff, a goat, and the third time they con1e, a hog, and the revengers become suspicious that Katla is manipulatine their sight with her cunning abilities. At this point in the escalating

Although innocent, as a woman Geirridr cannot speak before the ping. Therefore, her brother Arnkell represents her in the public arena.The proceedings of the ping are not fully described, but we can see how specific actions were nrade. In this case there were no proofs, the accusation was entirely based on runlours, and hence a tylftarkuidr, a jurv of twelve, was appointed to solve the case. For serious crirnes such a panel was needed: 'lt was a means of proof chiefly used in cases where a greater degree of public interest was involved (e.g. sorcery, theft, and perjury)' (l)ennis, Foote ancl Perkins 1980b:253).Apparently there were also elaborate rules about whcl was suitable for such a commitment and not irnmediately involved in thc conflict, since the saga states'neither Snorri norlArnkell could give a decision in the case because of their kinship with the plaintiff and the defendant'.6e -fhe tyl;ftarkuldr freed Geirridr and the question of her guilt was ritually closed as the twelve tnembers of the jury swore an oath by the stallahringr, the altar ring, to testifii to the knowledgeable r'vontan's innocencc. After such a procedure the accusation could not be raised in pubiic agairr. Words uttered aloud like accusations, testimonies, oaths and announccrnents were surrounded with ritual activities. The conflict was solved fi>r

Spreading gossip concerning seriotts luatters was certainly not an hollourable thing to do and the chapter closes with a harsh remark:'Snorri antl Dorbjqrn's case was quashed, which brought thern dishonour.'7o The nrisuse of the spoken word was considered a rrajor crinre attd only dishontltrr could come from such behavior-rr. All the actions of the fornral trial took placc in wcll-clefirred ptrblit' space eud were, as such, clearly obscrvrrblc :rctivities.J'hc irttirrrrral trill lr:rtl

conflict only a person with equal insight and capacities can help them. (leirridr is called for and fronr a long distance Katla can see that the complny searching for Oddr has increased by one person:' "That will be the rroli, Geirridr, coming with therr,'said Katia,'and simple illusions fsjinhuerfirrg, i.e. deceiving of sightl wrll not be enough now." '71 Knowledgeable rrnd sensitive as she is, Katla feels that this time things mrght go in a direction unfavourable to her. When Geirridr and the ltren enter the room they immediately put a skin bag over Katlat head as protection against her evil eye. They find ( )tldr and hang him at once. As he is recalcitrant it is comrnented by the r'('vengers that all his trouble is due to his evil-minded mother. The r1'sponse conres immediateiy:' "Maybe he doesn't have a good mother," s:ricl Katla,"but I never wished him to get such an evil end because of me. It's rny will that you all get an evil end because of me, and I expect that rvil[ bc the case."'72 As always in the sagas the curse will later ttlrn out to
lrc cftective. I(:ttllr rrrakcs ;r r'orrltcssion tlr:rt sl'rc was tl'rc t:rrrc causing Gtrnnlaugr darn,rqt' :rrrtl tlrc qtrcstiorr of'r-lrrilt is thcrcby scttlcd. Apparcntly, thc revengers lill tlrc s:rrnc rolr':rs tll('witn('sst's irr u lirrrrr:rl trill. llrrt befirrc shc is killcc'l slrt' llys yt't :ur<rtlrt'r ( ur\(', ,i('r,rr'()i; tlris tirrrc orr Arrrkcll. Iivcrr if'hcr' 11:rzt' is

rrrorc oF tltc clrarlctcr of :rrr uct of rcvcngc utttl oficrt took pl;tt'c irr tltt' vitirrity of-tlorrrcstit-ltrt';ts.'l'ltc irrlirrrrr:rl st'ttlctttt'ttt w;ts tl()t strt'rtrtttrtlt'tl lly


Witcltcraft and Magic in Europe:'lhe Middle Ages

Trolld6rnr in Early Medieual

are thought



rendered harmless by the skin bag there are still powerful words to be used and until the last moment the knowledgeable fights back against her enenries. Katla is stoned to death and the chapter ends:'The news quickly travelled everywhere, but no o11e thought it was sad. And so the winter passed by'.73The sagas nlay be laconic, but they are certainly not neutral in

their ways of telling. The foreign Kotkell farnilyt malevolent seidr performances



-saga chapters 35ff. were discussed in the previous section; and there is also a lega1 afterrnath to their activities (Miller 19i16: 110ff.). The Hebredian fanrily was accused of theft and -fi7lkyngl because they gained prosperity without any seeming effort, which irnplied the use of trolld6mr. The episode starts as if a formal trial is going to take place. An old woman stands behind the accusation but it is her son who is the formal actor' As a man he can sumlnon the Kotkells in public:

F6rdr rode to Kotkell's farrr with nine other nten. Kotkell's sons were not at home. Before witnesses, D6rdr charged Kotkell and his wife and sons with theft and sorcery ffiqlkyngl, an offence punishable by outlawry for life lskigangr).74
Ski,qqangr figuratively speaking nleant that the person was doomed to walk the woodlands and not stay in populated areas. It distinctly nleant that the

condemned was outside the law, as the English 'outlaw'


Apparently outlawry is the only thinkable punishnrent since such a very serious crirne as trolldimr is suspected, a feature which agrees r,vith the later Christian codes. But before the proper time for the Alpingi comes there is a new trolldimr incident that clearly links the fanrily to clandestine deeds. No formal trial ever takes place. By means of trolldimr the Kotkells cause a storm in which the accuser D6rdr dies.The event arouses the anger of the local people even rnore.The fatal storm is followed by the incident when Hrtitr's young son is killed by seidr and incantations.The relatives of the victim now act on their own although, as the saga states, it is too late * and they inunediately go for the Kotkell family. Altogether, seventeen lnen leave to find the seidmenn and to get rid of them for good.The revenge on the family comes in three phases. The first one for,rnd is Hallbjqrn and he is caught so that he can be drowned.'When he is captured a skin bag is inrnrediately put over his head, as was done in the case above. Kotkell and (]rirna are stoned to death as previously noted and a cairn of stones is constructed over their brlnes- Ntl comments are made on this except that the place is natrled after the incident. Thereafter Hallbjgrn is to be drowned and while he is irl tlre boat, 'they renroved the sack and tiecl a al.r<ttrt his lreck. As they tlicl so, Hallb-jern turnecl:l [4ilzc that wus al)ytl]inli brrt scrrtlc towrtrr'ls lrrnd.'75 ['lc lr'lso t:rkcs thc opportturity t() l;ry rr t'trrsc. rrlIrtr'<)i, rttr ltis crtt'tttics.'llvctrts

to have proved how effective was his curse'is the short comsaga.76 Hallbjqrn's destructive gaze and the powerful words in his mouth show him fighting not only to the end, but even later still. He is, as planned, drowned by the revengers. However, the sea does not keep his body and washes the corpse ashore. Hallbjqrn has no peace and shows himself to the living and causes trouble as a revenant.The conflict goes on from the other side of the grave. As noted befbre, no sharp distinction can be made between the livrng and the dead when it comes to action and counteraction in trolld6mr cases. The last surviving member of the Kotkell family, Stigandi, remains free for some tinre. He is condemned in public as an outlaw, but manages to keep away. The saga calls hirn iltile,qumadr, which has associations in two different directions - socially with outlawry, and ritually with being thotrght of as a performer of utilegd/ittisata and -seidr. In both meanings he belongs to the wilderness outside sociery. In either aspect he had no expectations of protection frorn anyone. A seidr performer and an outlaw could be killed like an animal. Stigandi is captured through crafty trickery (ch.3B). Somehow it is known that he is meeting a wonlan sent out to watch the cows while they graze. She is forced by nreans ofviolence to betray Stigandi: D6rdr had her threatened to try and find out thc truth. When suitably frightened, the wonran revealed that a man calne to her, "a large man, and handsome, he seenred to me." '77 The harshness of the conflicts is shown in these few sentences and rvhen Stigandi is finally captured, while resting with his woman. The sarne procedure takes place as with the execution of his relatives. The revengers are afraid that Stigancli will cause the same damage with his fatal gaze as did his brother, and are very careful when they put the skin bag over his head. But this tirne there is a small slot in the head
ment in the
bag and the gaze of the -seidmadr causes the surrounding land to ianguish


whirlwind has passed:

There was a tear in the sack through which Stigandi could see the slope opposite. It was a fertile brt of land, green w'ith grass, but suddenly it was as if a tornado struck it. The land was transformed and never again did grass grow there. It is now called'the Fire-Site'.78

llere we find another exan-rple of a place given its name after trolld|nu incidents; nan-ring the lanclscape preserved menlory. The place here ttrnctions in the sanre way as a nronLlnrent of stone. Stigandi is finally stoned to cleath. An outlaw hacl no nrore pr()tection, either socially or lcgally, than rr wiltl lrclst. Killing an outlaw wils cvcll rc'nvurclctl. So, wh:rt d<l thc two irrfirrrrr;rl trilrls hrrvc irr ('()nllll()n urrtl wh:rt nr:rkcs tlrcrn diflt'r' fi'orrr tlri' lirlrrr.rl?'l-lrc irrtirrrrr:rl tri;rls lr:r.l rr t-lt':rr t'lrrrluctcr as :rt'ts of'Iriv;r(('11'v('n1,,('. ll ,,rrr lrr'rrott'tl tlr;rl irr llrt'Priv,rl('.lr'('nil tlrrlirru tlrc


Witchcrqft and Magic in Europe:Thc Middle Ages

Tiolld6nrr in Early Lledieudl Scandinauia


inforrnal trial against Katla, she takes part in a debate with her accusers ending with hei cursing thern while the innocent Geirridr remains silent thror-rghout the negotiations. Secondly, there are no indications in the texts that the informal disputes are rnade public. It does not seem to have been considered dishonouiable to execute persons proved to be associated with trollil|mr.The latter is a critical point since the formal trial dernanded evidence or at least a trustable jury to pronounce a sentence. In the narratives the theme of trial could be used ahnost in a mocking way, or at least jocularly, and even the disobedient dead could face a trial. The recently dlparted retained a strong relationship to the living, a bond that the latter sometimes wanted to cut. ln Eytbygla r.1gd chapters 54-5 a group of drowned people start to return in the evenings in their wet .totfr.r.Each night they draw closer and closer to the fire.The closer they come, the more problems arise and the peopie of the farnr fall ill and some die.'Six people di.d thlr time, and some people fled because of the hauntings and the ghosts.'79 The situation beconres il1ore and more chaotic and deip.r"t.. A man known for his wisdom advises the people to have 'a11 the revenants prosecuted at a door court.Then the priest should say mass,consecrate *ater and hear everybody's confession.'80 This is done and finally there is peace and the sick start to improve. Evidently the methods of both the new and the old faith could heip in critical situations. The descriptions of the drowning and stoning of people found guilty of trolliltlmr agrei with what is written in Crigis and other later legal texts. Katla is stoned to death and in Haralds sagd hirfapra some eighty seidmenn are burnt to death. These rnethods of execution aiso appear in Christian
laws. Grettis saga 82 can serve as an

coward and "greatly despised for his deed when people realised that he had overcome Grettir with sorcery fulorningarl"'.81 It is not the killing of Grettir that has brought the case before the Alpingi, but the use of gerningar. Not even against an outlaw rs trolld6mr regarded as acceptable behaviour. The proceedings of the Alpingi are described in chapter 84. Qngull clainred a reward for killing an outlaw, as custorrl stipulated. Instead, it was decidecl that he was responsible for killing by means o{ trolld| is also stated in Crdgis 7 that it is considered a crirne to pay a person to perform tntllddmr. As a consequence, Qngull was now deerned an outlaw himself and had to leave the same sr-lfirmer,never to return to Iceland.At the same nreeting a new law is said to have been nrade that outlawed all knou4edgeable nren,-fo rneski wnenn. Several of the episodes referred to above irnply a 'contact zone' where old and new norms were amalgamated. The trial constitr.rted a 'spatial and ternporal copresence', as discussed by Mary Louise Pratt (1992:7). The

illuminating example of how the question of guilt wis conceived in a trollddmr case. The old wonlan who carved Grettir was contmissioned by his enemies. Like many other r.urrt, "gri,-rrt women she was acting out of loyaity against her fanrily, not knorvleJgeable on her own. She served as a mediator due to her access to the methods of trolld\mr and she was not held personally responsible for the consequences of her acting. The fosternlother was herself never taken to court, but the man who gave her the nrission was.'The many foster llothers in the sagas rvho r,vere adept at magic and lore seldom suffered SorcerY accusations. They apparently were well protected in the b6ndi's household and of little '19t36: 115). interesilo those competing with that household' (Miller Individual guilt and responsibility is rnuch nlore strolrgly enrphasized irr the Christian laws. The present text inclicates a teltse situation. As Clrettrr is seric)usly htrrt {ue to the old woltan's rittrals, he bccottrcs vttltrerablc rttttl rttl clsy vi,-trrrr. His encrrry Qrrgrrll c:lairrrs thlt it wrrs (llrrist wlto lcd Irilrr tlre (lrettir tlrt' 11tttlltW [rtrt is lticrw;tnls lookt'tl tl[)()ll ils :t t'ow:tr,.l: 'look.'d tl[)()ll rls ;l

introduction of r,vritten Christian laws into the early Scandinavian kingdonrs in one way rnarks the end of this essay. The Continental Christian lesal traditions brought changes to the procedures of law and justice along r,vith the influence of Mosaic and canonic law. Local traditions of legal lt.lnrinistration became less relevant. Nevertheless. the world view behind ('ertain kinds of accusations shows striking similarities with the sagas. 'l'rolldtlmr was apparently considered a serious crime in Christian times.The rndical changes and differences must have worked together for a long tinre rn a form of hybridization.We can recognize a stress on the spoken word, the talk of cunning deeds, and an apparent awareness that an accusation of trolld|mr could serve as serious defamation. The victims of trolld|mr coold bc people and cattle, as well as material goods. The early Christian 1egal tcxts state that spreading superstition should be pr-inished by fine, but it is r()r vcry cleer whrr supcrstition wJs ('or)(' laws vary in giving tlitli:rent fornrs of penalties and as in the saga texts the terminology varies irr a way that indicates a variation in degrees of tntlld6mr.It is spoken of in \'('ry lleneral terms as a threat to the true Christian belief. The Srvedish l),ildlagen rrrentions wornen\ use of nails and hair as instrunrents for evil ,lceds, and the older l3orgarpingt law from Norway speaks of men sitting out in the wilderness to seek visions and raising the trolls.82 (lisli Pllsson suggests that the decline of accusations of trollddmr as a rrrotif in sasa texts was not connected to the introduction of Christianiry lrrrt c:urne'as a result of increasecl social clistance, that is, with the developrrrt'rrt of ir-rcreasingly usynrnretrical power relations', and (he ci:ntinues at tlrc orrl r:lf lris essly) 'wrs l conse(plcl)ce r>f changes in the political organis.rtrorr of tlrc (lorrrrrrorluvt',rltlr, tlrcsc clrlrrgcs bcirrg thc rcstrlt of inherent t ontrrrlit'tiorrs irr lt'l.rtrt)ns .lnr()l)g t lricftlirrs ;rrrd firllor'vcls' (199 1: 157, l{rl-i) . lt rs:r rlrst('r'nru', olrsr'rr'.rlton sitttt'tltt't'c ru't's() nlluly sirrril:rritics


Witchuaft and Magit in Europe:Tlrc A,litldlt Agcs

between sasa texts and Christian larvs.The old gods were into clemons, but nrany vital conceptions obviously retnained the satne. Shapeshifrers, the power of spells and destruction by nleans of, trollddmr *ere t.eated by Christian authors for centuries as if they objectively existed added;the devi1.


they were evil but real. But now a new theological entify wes



Tians. Scudder,The Conrplete Srgas of the lcelanclers


ll: 158. Clrettis saga (r9: Grtid ykkar vel vid gorningurn; fitt er ranlnarl en forneskjan. All tmnshr.rnless notecl otherrvise.To avoici confusion, hor,vever, f<rnns of nanles are standardizecl in the translations. Origin:rl texts are refc'rred to bv cl'rapter nunrber (sagls) or stanzas (verse). lt should be notecl that nrrnuscript

The most recent selteral introcluction to

Errg/ish are Margaret Clunies Rossls

O1d Norse lnythology and religion in

tions of sallas are teken lronr The Conrplete Sagas of the Icelanders (henceforth CSI), and olEclclic versc lrom the trurslatiol olLarrington (sec uncler Poetic Edda),

nvo volutnes Prokmpcd Erhocs (lc)91,1998)-These thorough n-ronographs give an analytical survey alone r'vith cotnruetrtaries on the sources and a useful bibliography. Thornas A. l)ullois, Nordic religitrrs in the Viking Agc (1999) covers a wicler area than the conventionil'Sc;rndinavian'including nraterials frolr Saani and Balto-Finnic sources. Several chapters tor'rch cliscussions related to trolld6nu. Jenny Jochens' O/d Imagcs of-Wbntut (1,996) discusses several of the ferrrale agents taken up by the present study. ()ld Norsc-kclantlic Litcrdhu'c: A Critiml Grildc, editecl by Carol Clover andJohn Linclow (1985), presents six rnajor essays on 11yths, Eddic and skaldic poeq/ ancl s:rsas, cach rvith atr extensive bibliogaphy. Medicual Scandinavia,edited by Phlipp Pulsiano (1 993), is a one voiume diction:rry with very inforr-native ancl detailed articles on texts, persons and different aspects of sociery lnd religiol, as rve1l as nraterial culture arcl places.All articles have bibliographies er-rd refererlces to editions ancl translatiotts of relevartt texts. Krrlrrriy'ri-sntrisk l&sikort-fi;r rtotdisk rnid-

or editorial differences fronr the originals of rcxts quoted hcre nray Lrc reflected in the translations cited; thc general uinr has been to usc thc nrost 2. Attenrpts to 3. Cohn
reaclily available and r-rp-to-clate texts arrd translations. est:rblish such a distinction have been nrlcle. For Katherine Morris (1c)93) this difterence constitutes thc' basis lbr her str-rdy.
1975; Levack l9tl7; Flint 1991;Mary l)ouglas rvrites rvhen discr.rssins the Continental .'vitch crue (1992'.86):'The ureclieval wrtclr u'as also thor-rght to be given to unnatural vrce lnd to :rn ins:itiablc sexual xppetite. Cherges of secret sexual deviance, spite, lieresy, and occult dmgerous powers were conrbined. Everything significarlt about the Enropean rvitch rv:rs occult, hicidcn, urrknorvablc by orclinary rtteans.'

lclildcr (2nd edn 19U1-8 in 18 volurrres) goes nrorc into det:ril, but the articles are written in Scandinavian lanp;uages. Mcdieuat.firlklttrc: an cntl'rlLtpcdia ttl'nrytlu, Icgentls, tdlcs, bclids, and clsttrrrs (200()) edited by Carl Lindahl ct rn'o volunres 55ive e detailecl overview over popular culture and populer religion of the European Middle Agcs.
(19138) covers rrticles and lnonoJohn Lindor.vs bibliography Scantlinduiarr l4ytlrcloa:', graphs published world wide and in nrost l:rnguages. Sorle perioclicals that publish esseys relevant to the ()ld Norse freld can be tnen-


Hiuamil 142

llirnar nrunt pir frnna oc rlclnr stlfl, nripc st6ra stafi, nrigc stinna steft, er fidi finrbulpnh'
oL g()rd() tirrlcgirr

tioned: Scanrlinattian Srrrdi.,j, Arkiu_fiit'nordisk-filoktgi, Maal o,q rnirurt',and lrr.To thesc lvell established.journals two new ones can be addecl: Alvissnill md Skildskapnnill. Most of the saga texts used it'r this stucly are to be fotrnd in critical editions witlr coilllentrries and introdLrctltry essirys in Isln:k -fitrnrit.The origin:rl terts of thc Poctital Edda xe edited by Gustav Neckel :rncl Hrns Ktrhn in tidda: dic I'itdtr dt:s Corlcx Rca;r,s (5th edn, 19tt3).The nrajority of the trrnslatious ttsecl irt tltc prcsertt 'l'ltc l\tctit lldda (1996)' study are taken fronr (larolync L:rrrinston\ tr:rttsletiott <':f fi'tttrt 'l'ltt Oorttplttc,Srl(rt-s o/ Arrthony Frglkels olSlot'ris ljrirl,r,:rncl nl()st sitqil text k(l(ytd(ts. v<tl 1-5 (1997). All of tlresc tr:rrrslutiorts rcfi'rcttr'es to trrrtllt'r l't':ttlitlq.

oc reist hroptr rquna.

5. For lleneral overviews on Scantlinavian lirlk beliefs translated to English see Lindow 1978; Kvidellnci (t. Ilivcunil 151:
lrat k;urrr cr' it sirtt:r, clrrric s:.-rir pcurr ir nitorrr r'.is vir).rr':

acconrpanicd by tcxts nrrc'l Schnrsclorl l9illJ; Sirrrpson l9lJt3, md with special enrphasis <tn trolldirnr. Alvcr 1971r, b; Alvcr

lntl Selberg

199o; [l.auclvere 1993, 1995.

lrt' rit'lt ilt toltttttt'tlt:trics



lr.rl,, r rrrr, l:t'ipt:r t1r,r'r)r', ,'l.t ttt, ttt lt,'l,lt t'tttt rttit. lr,t',t,


Witch.crafi and Magic in Europe:The Middle Ages



Trans. and ed. I\obinson. Cr6galdr 15*16: Far Pir nri rva Par er foraii PYkkir; ok standit P6r mein fYr nrunuml :r jl'd[q:torlr stcirri

st6d ek irtnan dura, ure<lati ek f6r galdra 961.

Eiriki konungi ok Gunnhildi dr6ttn:ingu,'hann sneri hrosshqfdinu inn ir llnd -'sny ek pessu nidi I landvrttir prr, er lancl petta byggva, svl at allar fari p:tr villar vega, engi hendi n6 hitti sitt inni, fyrr en pler reka Eirik konung ok Gunnhildi 6r landi.' Sidan skytr hann stgnginni nidr i bjargrifu ok 16t par standa; hann sneri ok hgfbinu inn 1 lancl, c-n hann reist ritnar 1 stgnginni, ok segja per formlla penna ailan.

M6dur ord

pi, mBgr, hedan,

ok 1it P6r i br16sti btia; iilgn6ga heill skaitr"r of aldr hafa' medan Pti min orii of mant. g. Trans. and cited (from Braune and Ebbinghaus 1969:89) by Simek 1993:278. Phol ende ulrodan uLlorun ziholztdu uuart demo balderes uolon sin uuoz birenkit' thu biguol en sinfftgunt, sunna era suister; thu biguol en fi-iia, uolla era suister; thu biguol en uuodan, so he uuola conda: sose benrenki, sose bluotrenki, sose lidirenki: ben zi bena. bluot zi bluoda, licl zi geliden, sose gelimida sin. 9. There ere different opinions as to whether 'baldr' refers to the narne of the gocl or should be interpreted as'lord, nlaster'and reftr tn Odi"''

Vqhrspi 19-20 Asc veit ec standa, hcitirYggdrasill, hlr badrnr, ausinn }rvitaauri; padan koma dpggvar, prrs i dala falla, stendr iE yfir, grcrnn, (Jrdar bmnni.
D:idan konra meyiar, nargs vitancli, stendr;

prilr, 6r peim sr, er und polli Urd h6to eina, at)raVerdandi


sc6ro 1 scidi -, Sculd ina l:ridio; prr lpg lqgdo, prr lif kuro alda bornom, orlqg seggia. Trans. Cook, CS/ lll: 215. Nil/-s sqqa 157


Mannahgfuii viru fi,rir kljlna, en parnrrr 6r tlqnnttttt fyrir viptu ok grrr1, sverr) var fyrir skeid, en gr firrir hrcl. Drr kvidu frh visur nqkkurrr:

Vitt er orpit fyrir valfalli

riG reidisky,

rignir bl6di;


70. Hivamil


er fyrir geirum grir upp kominr.r



bgnd svi ec gel, at ec ganga t-ui, sPrettr nl6r affotom floturr, enn afhgndonr haPt. Trans. ar.rd ed. Grendon 1909: 177 ,414: Ic rnE on pisse g,vrde bellice, arrd on godes helcle bebeode
par-re slra slege, gryre, wid dane Jryl11l1l:In rvid dane micelau egsan, pe bid eghwam ltd, and wid eal p:et hd, pe into lancl frre '

ec it fi6rda' ef m6r $'rdar bera boglirnorr:

vefr verpj(rdar. er prr vinur fylla raudunr vepti Randv6s bana.

wr<) pane sdra stice,


Sji er orpinn vefr yta pgrmunr ok hardkl6adr hgtlurrr nrJt)lt.l.

eru dreyrrekin dqrr at skgptunr,


Tra1s. Scr-rclcler, (.',S/

Egils -snga sln11a-Cv',111155tttr.l" 57: Clckk Egill upp i eypa. IJapp t(rk i hqrncl s6r hr'slistpng ok gekk it betgsnqrs rrqrkkttr:t, [rr'r ct vissi til la1tls ip1;|rh trik h:rtrrr hrosshqfir<) ok setti trpp ir st<2rruinrt. Sit)rltr vcitti h:trttr

I: 113f.



en (,)rurr'r h :r.'l:tt'tr-; skulttttr sl.i sr.'t't,)tttn


firrrrril:r 6k

rrlrlti svi:'l

Ii'r- st't

t'k trpp rri<)str,rttg. ,rk srrv ck


rrit)i :i lrqrrrtl




Witchcraft and Magic in Europc:The Middle Agas



1.5. Hiuarnil 155

Dat kann ec ip tir"rnda, elec s6 tirnridor

leice lopti 1: ec svh vittnc, at Peir vi11ir fara sinna heint hama,

large playing field, and the woman (especially the divorced or widowed woman) sr-rfhciently ambitious and sufEciently endowed with money :rnd power seerns not to have been especially hinderecl by notions of maie :rnd
ferrrale nature' (Clover 1993: 369).




16. The rtrost cletailed narrations describing the ritual perforntances of scidr are:
Eiriks sqqa rauda
soqn krakd

4; Vhmsdtrlu saga i 0; Laxdttla


35ff.; Qruar Odds




3; Vigd-Clums sa,qa 12. Severai other texts are of interest and sotne of t[e1r u,ill be discussed in rvhat follows. For a rnore or less cotuplete catalogue of texts relevant to -vrir)r see Dillnrann 19U7. Generrl discussiotrs on -icldr Striinlblck

1935; l)illmami 1982, 19U7; Mundal and Steilsland 19ti9; Hastrup 1990a: 197tr, Clurries l{oss 1998: 321; l)uBois 1999: 1211T. 17 . Vqllrspi 28: Ein sat hon i1ti. 'l 8. Snorri, Ynglinga -sa.qrl .1: Hou kenndi fyrst nred Asrrm seld,scmVgtttttn var titt. 19. Solie OId Norse texts :ue of special illterest: In the Pocllc Edda: Vpluspi, Hit,drnil :irtd Crlttnisrnil; ancl Snorri'.s Etlda and the first chapters of his Yn,glirryd -saga. E,specially the latter deals:rt length rvrth these nrore clandestine

2(r. The chapter has been interpreted lroni rnany points of view. For sonrc inrptrr-1991: tant studics of the various approaches, see Strcinrbrick 1935; Pilsson 164f. (with enrphasis on Gudridr); I)illmann 1,1)92 25fi.; Muncl:rl and Steinsland 198t): 99 (divination as healing) l)uBois 1999 1211T. 27 . The Hiuksb(rk nranuscript gives this rnfornr.rtion. 28. Tians. Kunz, CSl l:6. Eiriks saga rauda,l: Dl var hon svl biin, at hon hafbi yfir s6r tuglarnqttul blin, ok var settr steinl11l1 a1lt i skaut oflrn; hon hafdi I hilsi s6r glertplur, lanrbskinnskofra svartan t hqfAi ok vid innan kattskinn h",it; ok hon hafbi staf i hendi, ok var 5 knappr; hann var birinn nred messinsu ok settr steinunr ofan um knappinn; hon hatti um sik hnj6skulinda, ok var l.lar I skj6dupungr mikill, ok variiveitti hon par i tgfr sin, pau er hon purfti til fr6dleiks at haf). Hon hatbi 1 foturn kiilfskinnsskira iodna ok i pvengi langa, ok I tinknappar miklir 1 endunum. Hon hafbi t hgndur.n s6r kattskir.rnsgl6fa, ok vlru hvitir innan ok lodnir. 29. Trans. Kunz, CS/ l: 6. Eiriks sdgd rdudd 4: Hon hatti messingrrsp6n ok knif
tannskeptan, tvih6lkadan af ein, ok var brotinn af oddrinn. .10. Trans. Kunz, CSI I: 6. Eir{ks saga rauda 4: Hvlrki em ek lqlkunnig n6 visir.rdakona, en f6 kenndi Halldis, 6stra nrin, rn6r 1 islandi pat kvrdi, er hon kalladi Vardlokur. (Manuscripts vary betrveen uardl okkur and uar dlo kur.) Dag Stronrbick rvrites: 'Varr)lokkur syftar pi den speciella sins, sorn anvinclcs for att iterkalla den schamanerandes sj:il till den i extatisk utrnattning liggande kroppen'(Strcimb:ick 1935: 139 'Vardlohkrrr reGrs to the special song used to recall the soul of the one shamanizing to the body lying in a state of ecstatic exhaustion'). .12. Trarrs. Kersharv 35-6. Noma-Ccsts pittr 11: bar 16r pl unr landit volur, er

but severe :rspects of the gocl.

20. Snorri,

Ynglitrga -saga 7: Odirrn skipti hgluum. Li pi bikrinn sem sofitrn eda en hann var pi fugl eda ciyr, fiskr eda ornlr ok for I einni svipstund ii t1:rr1:rg lqnd at sinurn orendunt eda annrrra flt:lnna. bat kunt'ri hantr enn at gen nrec) ordurn eirrunr at slokkva elcl ok kyrra sli ok snia vindunl hverjl

leid. er hrn vi1di.


Sigrdrilinill 13 Husritnar scalttt kunna, ef pir vilt hveriom vera

ucc)svinuari gutua;

prr prr

of r6d, prr of reist, unr tmgr)i Hroptr', peinr legi, er lekicl hatbr af

or lr.rusi Hcr,lJrruptrit oc 6r horni Hodclrofhis.' 22 Snorri, Yn,qlingLt sqqaT:;rt eigi p6tti karlrnprlnutn skanlnrlaust vid
var gydjunum


f;rrl, ok

kennc'l su


ipr6tt. 7: Vhru peir n:est honum ttur allan fr6dieik ok fq)lkyrilrgi.


Lokascnrn 21'.

'( )r'rtlrirrly [1.'trv,'cn \v()t)t('r) s tlt' .jrrt-t' st:ltus irtl(l tlt' f:tt to st:lttls (its it is rcpr-c st'rrtt.rl irr litt'r'.rr'\',ln(l (\'('t) ltistotit.rl tt'rts) lltt'tt' (tl"t'llt'ttt:t vt'rV

'Enn pic sida k6do Sirnrscyo i, oc clraptu l'r v6tt scnr vqrlor; vitcr liki ftrrtu vcrpiirc) yfir', oc ltuqr)l cc f ltt ltrgs et)rtl.'

kallaclar viru splkonur ok spidu m6nnunr aldr. Irvi budu rnenn pcim ok gerdu heim veizlur ok glfu peim gjafir at skilnar)i. .1J. Trans. Pllssorr and Edr,vards 28. Qruar Odds sdg,t 2: Hirn fcrr l veizlur ok sagdi nrcinnurn fyrir um vetrarfar ok forlog sin. i-l. Trans.Wawn, CSI IV: 11. Vamsdtxla s4ga 10: Finnan var sett hirtt ok bfiit um I'rana vegliga; pangat gengu nrenn til fr6tta, hverr 6r sinu riuni, ok spurdu at crrlguum sinum. i5. Trans. McKinnell, CSI II: 2U5. V[ga Glilms saga 12'. Dcitti mikit unclir, at hirsfreyur lignadi hcnni vel unr heradit; sagdi ngkkut vilhalt, sem henni vlr beini vcittr. f(r. Tnrns. McKinnell, CSI II:286.Viga ()lints sa.qtt 12:'Eigi rtla ek p6r rrir allg6<)an pykkjr bcinnnn fyrir skirtu pess:r.' l'7. Trrrrrs. l)r'rlssorr urrtl lllw;rrcls ?05. .srqgrr of HL'yrurt\s 5: Irctt:r kvckl it slnra korrr llrrsl;r i [rrrt lrt'rlrcrqi, scru Hrirtqr konuttgr svlf i, ok lr(rf trpp brtrr p:'r, er sir):rrr cr kiillrr,) lltrslrrlr,r'rt. ok lrctir lrrirr vir)fi:t'q or<)it sit):ttt, ok ,.'rtt [r:tr i Irtirrg orr^l ok ill,lr:ru s,'rrr krrstrrrrrn rrriirrrrtrrrr t'r'[r.rrllcys:r i rrrrrrrrri.rt lr.rf,r.


Witchmft dnd Magic in Europe:The MiddleAges

Trarrs. Pllsson and Edwards 206. Bd-sa sdga ok Hcrrauds 5, st. 4:



Svi skal ek pjarnra

p6r at brj6sti,
at hjarta pitt

17. Laxdo:la -raga 35:kvidu par hart)snirin fi-cdi; pat viru galdrar.Trans. Kurrz. (.'SI 5: 50:'Then they chanted powcrful itrcantations; they wcre sorcery.' 4it Tians. Kunz, CS/5: 53. I-axdtrla sa,ga36: F6r Dorleikr ni 5 fund landseta sirrrr.r, grrrgi. err eyru pin aldregi hevri ok augu pin

ok Grirnu, ok bad pau eera npkkurn hlut, pann er Hrfti v:tri svivirding at. bau t6kr"r undir petta l6ttliga ok kvldusk pess vera albirin. 49. Trans. Kunz, CSI 5:177. Laxdela saga 7(t: Far ftndusk undir bein; pau virtr bll ok illi1ig; par fannsk ok kinga ok seidstafr mikill. D6ttusk nrenn pi vita, rt par mundi verit hali vqluleidi ngkkut.Vlru pru bein fcrrd langt i brott, par
sem sizt var rnannn ve!]r. 50

irthverf sniist.


Trarrs. Pllssorr and Ecllvards 206f . R6sa saga ok Hcrrauds 5, st. 7:



56 P6r i hvilu sern i hlhneldi,

en i


i ha{blru; pri .krl pcr stinn:r

synu verra, en ef pir vilt vid mel,jar nlanns ga1l1n1an hafa, villi't pir pa v.'g.rrirrs: ec)a viltu pulu lengri? 40 Trans. Pllsson and Ecl.vards 207. Btisa saga ok Herrauds 5:'Di skal taka p6r fram betr,' segir tsusla. H6f hin pi upp pat vers, Syrpuvers er kal1at ok mestr galdr cr i f6iginn ok eigr er lofat at kveda eftir dagsetr. 41 Crettis saoa 78: Ef pir vil1 min riil ha[r, p:i vil ek rlda, hversu rned er farit. Tians. Scudder, CSl ll: 168: 'If you want my advice, I must also decide how you should enrplo1, it.' 12. Grcttis saga 78'. hversu heilladr.ltlgir peir nlunu vera. Trans. Scudder, C-'S/ II: 1 (ru:'hou' providelrce favours thcur'. 13 Trans. Scrrclder, CSI II: 169. Crettis sagd 7u: Ni mrli ek pat um vid pik, (lrettir, at pir s6r heillurn horfinn, allri gipt ok g:efu ok allri vqrn ok vizku, r pvi meir. sem l.lir lifir lengr. 11. Trans. Scudder, CS1 II: 169. Crettis saga78 ok vid engi ord hefir m6r meir

Veiztu, hv6 rista scal, veiztu, hv6 rlda scal? veiztu, hv6 fI sca1, veiztu. hv6 freista scal? veiztu, hv6 bidia scal, veiztu, hv6 bl6ta scal? veiztu, hv6 senda scal, veiztu, hv6 s6a scal?




'nril oc manvit gefit ocr rrrcrom tveim oc hcnishendr, medan lifornl' Sigrdrifunill 11 'Lin-rn-lnar scaltu kunna, ef pir vilt lrcnir vera oc kunna slr at sia; I berki scal paer rista oc 6 badmi vidar, peim er lita austr lima.' Trans. and ed. Robinson. Fjqlsuinnsmil 49 Lengi ek sat


brugdit en pessi. 45. Trans. Scndder, CSl II: 170. Crettk saga78: Nir var svi ggrt, sern hon beiddi, ok er hon kom til strandar. haltradi hon frarn med srnun, svl sem l-renni vrri visat til. Dar l1 fi,rir henni r6tartr6 svl rnikit sem axlbyrdr. Hon leit I tr6it ok bad pi snia fyrir s6r; pat var senr svidit ok gnidat q<)ruur megin. Hon 1['t telgja 1 litinn fletveg, par gnidat var; sid:rn t6k hon knif sinn ok reist rirnar 1 r6tinni ok raut) i bl6di sinu ok kvar) yfir galdra. Hon gekk gflr.rg rrrrclstr:lis unr tr6it ok hrfbi par yfir nrgril relnnt ulnln,cli. Eptir pat l:r:tr horr hritttl:r tr6rlLl ir sjir ok

beid ek pin degr ok daga: nrl pat vard, er ek vrtt hefi, at pi ert kominn, rregr, til urinna sala. Ti'ans. Scudder, CSI I: 1,43. Egils sqga Skalla-()rimssonarT2'. Sk:rl.rt rrrrdr rutter rist.t, nema rida vel kunni, pat verdr n1ergllu1 trrerrni, es of rnyrkvan staf villisk; slk 1 telgdu talkni

tiu launstafi ristna, pat hefr lauka lindi

langs o[rtregr fcngit.
55 Si.qnlr{fum,il 9:

nrclti svi fyrir, lt pat skyldi rckl irt til I)rrrrrucy.j:rr, ok vcrt)i ()rctti allt Ittcitt at. Tpls. I(u12, (lSI 5: .17. I-rr.rr/rr'/rr rrr((r 35:qrll vurir [r:rtr rrrjt,rk tlt,rlktrrrrris ok irrir
rrrt'strr st'ir'\nrt'tut.

'lJilrqrirnar scaltu kunna, ef fir birrrgl vilt or'leys:r kirrrl fiir korrorn; :i l6l.r Ir.r'r- \(,,1 ristil ot' ot-li<)o spcrlll:l rtt lrt,ft.t l,.i,litir,ltril,r.'

Tlolld6mr in Early Medieual Scandinauia 56. Odtlnirnrgritr 9: 'Svi hillpi P6r hollar vettir, Frigg oc Freyia oc fleiri god,


67. Trans. Quinn, CSIV:



fuldir ni6r ftir af hqnclotn.'


Trans. and ed. (lrendon 19(],9:207:

Wid lrtbyrde.
SA r.r''ifiI:rn, s6


hire cilcl nGclan ne rll:epl, gange t6 gewitenes mannes birgenne, ancl strppe ponne priwa pi byrgenne, ancl cwepe ponne prirva pis
Dis nr6

7o 71. 72

t6 b6te pire lipan htbyrde, lris r.116 t6 b6te pdre sr'vc\ran swrrtbyrde, Dis nr6 t6 b6te plre lit)an lanrbyrde.
'Durs rist ec P6r oc |:ria stafi, e'rgi oc tr:di oc 6Poia; svir ec pat af rist, settr ec p:rt h reist,

58. Skinismil36:

59. 60.


ef goraz par{:rr Pcss.' Hulclr also appears in cl'rapter 1'1 and is then called t ugluaSnorri, Yn,qlirrya 13: at vera rnyndi fqlkynngi Finna i $'si hans. KLtrntiks saga 5: pir skalt Steir.rgerr)rr aldri nj6ta.Trans. McTurk, CSI I: 1U7: 'you will never enjoy Steingerdr\ love.' Trans. McTurk, CSl I: 187. Konniks saga 5: Dvi n'rantu ekki rli1a, in vinda ker-


I42. Eyrhygqla saga 7(t'. en hon spurdi, hvlrt hann rtlar enn i Mlvahlid *'ok klappa um kerlingar nlrann?' Trans. Quirrn, CSIV: 143. Eyrltygqla sagd L6'. Detta vlr um stefnudaga reid Irorbjern i Mivahlid ok steftdi Geirridi um pat, hon vrri kveldrida ok hon hefdi vaidit r.neini Gunnlaugs. Trarrs. Quinn, CS1 V: 143. Eyrbyg4la saga 16: en hvirrgi peira Snorra n6 Arnkels p6tti bera rrega kvidinn f,irir hleyta sakar vid scekjanda ok varnaradilja. Trans. Quinn, CSIV: 143. Eyrbygqla saga 1.6:6nyttisk mllit fyrir leim Snorrrr ok Dorbirni, ok fengu peir afpessu 6virding. Tians. Quinn, CSIV: 154. Eyrhygja saga 20: Mun Geirridr trollit par konrirr, ok nrun pl eigi sj6nhverfingum einum mega vid koma. Trans. Quinn, CSIV: 154. Eyrbygqla sapa 2\'.Vera n.ri vist, at hann eisi cisi g6da m6dur, en eigi hlytr hann af pvi illt af m6r, at ek vilda lrat; en pat vtri vili minn, at p6r hlytid allir illit af ni6r; vrnti ek ok, at pat mun svi vera. Trans. Quinn, CSIV: 154. Eyrbyg4a saga 20: spurdusk ni pessi tidendi qll lrfrrsaman ok var engrlnl harms:rga i. Lidr ni svi vetrinn. Tians. Kunz, CSIV: 50. Laxd,rla saga 35: D6rdr korn til b<rjar Kotkels nrc<) tiunda mann; synir peira l{otkels viru eigi heirna. Sidan steftdi hann pcirrr


Kotkatli ok Grinru ok sonum peira ur.n pj6ftad ok fqlkynngi ok l('t vrrr<):r sk6ggang; hann stefirdi sekum peim til alpingis ok for til skips eptir pat. 75. Trans. Kunz, CSIV: 54. Laxdela sald 37: sidan t6ku peir belg af hefbi honrrrrr, en bundu stein vid hilsinn. Hallbjqrn rak pl skyggnur I landit, ok vrr etrgnalag hans ekki gott. Trarrs. Kunz, CSIV: 54. I-axdela sagd 37,


63. Hiuamil


Mjpk pykkir petta atkv:r:r)i

:'r lurfir

Irat kann ec ip scxtlnda, ef ec vil ins hafa ged dt oc ganran: hugi ec l'rverfi hvitarn.rri kono oc sny ec hennar qllom sefa.

svitrtra ttrrt-ts


Dat kann ec ip siauti;inda, at nric mun seitlt firraz ip rtranunu:r man.

CSIV 55. l-axdela sagd 38: htr henni naudga til st{rnlr, ok u' hon verdr hrrdd, pi segir hon, at rnadr kemr til fundar vic) lrlna, - 'sr'r cr mikill,' segir hon,'ok synisk n'r6r v:rnligr.' 7lJ. Trarrs. Kunz, CSIV:55. 38: ok getr Stigandi s6t gdmnr nrcgirr i hlidina; par var fagrt landsleg ok graslodit; en pvi var likast, sern hvirtllvirrtlr komi at; sneri um jgrdunni, svi at aldregi sidan kom par gr:rs upp. lr:rr hcitir
Trans. Kunz,

64. Ilirbar<)slitid



'Miclar tnatrv6lar ec halba vid nryrcridor


er ec v6lta P:tr



Ilcl,qakui dn Hj qruardssonar


ec heiti, atall scal ec p6r vera, nrigk eni ec silionr grxnrastr; irrgan stalir ec I'refi oPt biit


79. Trans. Quinn, CSI V: 202. Eyrltygqla saga 54'. l6tusk pir cnn scx rrrcrur i hridinni; en sunlt folk ilidi fyrir rein.rleikum ok aptrgprrgunr. S0. Trans. Quinn, CSI V: 202. Eyrby,ryqja saga 55: en sckjr pi urerrrr :rlla i c'lurac16mi, er aptr lengu; bad prest veita par tidir, vigja vltn ok skripte rrrqrrr,

l.Trrns. Scudder, CSI II: 178. ()rcttis.s4ga 82: Q)ngLrll ver irpokk:rt)r'rriqrk ;ri[rcs.
sunr verkrrnr, pcglr ltt rrrcnrr vissu,:rt


c1valc)ar qveldri c)or.'

(lrcttir h:rft)i

lrrc<) grtrrrirrurrrrr untunn


Chapter 3 (r(r. "Il'lrs. (]rrirrn, (,'S/ V: 142. I;yr|1,qqi,r -irr(rr 1(r: ltiv:tt);ttttrtt)r rrrikill ok rrr:'rltrgr,
slysirrrr ok rtiqs:ttttt.

lil. l'hc'(lhristcrrlt'l'ol lltc olrlt't llrrqrr[rirrr1ls l'rw, N,rr(r'r .qnttlt lot't I:.}7]:' sittrrr trti, ot v;t'kLr troll ulr; l).rl.rl:r$'tr, /(yr(rr/rrr/(r'rr l l: nr:rt)r silt.t'r rr(r, ot lr
v:r'r'kir troll ttp.