I’ve been meaning to write this as a companion to my Traditional Celtic Magic post for a while now. If you click the topic titles, it will take you to sources and references for more in depth information on the subject. Please note that this is in no way an all inclusive list, but just the main points. All of this information focuses on Pre-Wicca practices and traditions.
According to Wikipedia,
Vikings (Danish and Bokmål: vikinger; Swedish and Nynorsk: vikingar; Icelandic: víkingar), from Old Norse víkingr, were Norse seafarers, speaking the Old Norse language, who raided and traded from their Scandinavian homelands across wide areas of northern, central and eastern Europe, during the late 8th to late 11th centuries.The term is also commonly extended in modern English and other vernaculars to the inhabitants of Viking home communities during what has become known as the Viking Age. This period of Norse military, mercantile and demographic expansion constitutes an important element in the early medieval history of Scandinavia, the British Isles, France, Kievan Rus’ and Sicily. By the end of the 11th century Christian and Catholic governments had colonized and assimilated most, if not all, of the Nordic cultures.
The Nordic people had a very rich and wonderful religious tradition. Unlike Christian religions, anyone could perform sacrifices and rites of worship, not just the priest class. Their religion revolved around their Pantheon of Deities, Ancestor Worship, Magic and Dealings with Supernatural Beings.
There are several different kinds of supernatural creatures that the Norse people believed and revered. The Landvaettir, who were land spirits, specifically believed to be the actual soul or spirit of an area of land. They are known for being offended by violence, providing protection to children and animals, and being responsible for bringing prosperity to the land in regards to fishing, hunting, farming, gardening, etc. It is a very good idea to get on their good side.
The Fylgjur are another supernatural being that the Nordic peoples highly respected. They are similar to the western idea of a witch’s familiar. They are personal guardian spirits that usually take the form of an animal and follow their human, preventing harm or danger from coming to them. Fylgja very rarely show themselves, but when they do it will commonly be in the form of an animal that best represents their human’s personality. They are known for banging on walls when an accident is about to occur, or if someone has arrived at their human’s home. Apparently seeing your own Fylgja is a sign that death is near.
The Dvergar, or Dwarves, are skilled and wise creatures that are known for crafting weapons for the Gods. Sunlight causes them to turn to stone, so they live underground or inside rocks as to avoid it. While not necessarily worshiped by the Norse, the Dvergar were still respected and wary not to offend them.
The Draugar are the ghosts of humans that were unsatisfied after their own deaths, usually those who committed some evil deed in life. They are known for remaining among the living to torment and harass them. They are even said to cause illness, insanity and death in some cases.
The Disir are female spirits associated with Frejya that are attached to a specific family line. They are known for visiting the homes of newborn children to bring them luck and to bring nature’s bounty to their family. Usually spoken of favorably, the Disir can also be merciless and cruel if not given the proper respect. Sacrifices to the Disir, known as disablot, were thought to be carried out at the beginning of every winter.
The Valkyrja, or Valkyrie, is a female warrior spirit associated with Frejya, but also with Odin, that are present on the battlefield to choose the warriors that will fall in battle and carry their souls to Valhalla.
While feasts and sacrifices marked important events and special occasions, the Norse also held regular feasts where everyone in the community was invited to attend. One occurred at the beginning of winter (where sacrifices were made to the Landvaettir for abundance and good luck for the coming winter), one in the middle of winter (for prosperity and growth of the crops to come), and then one in the spring (for victory and wealth in the raids that would take place in the summer). During these times, sacrificed animals would be killed and eaten and ale was drank in honor of the gods and any fallen comrades.
There are two main types of rituals that are most often discussed in writings about the Norse. The first is known as the Blot (pronounced with a long O) which could mean ‘blessing’ or ‘sacrifice’ depending on the context. The Blot was a sacrifice or feast held in the honor of either a deity, an ancestor or a supernatural being such as the Landvaettir. The other ritual is the Seidr, which is a special rite or ritual used to obtain hidden knowledge. This is thought to be their magical practice.
Nordic magic, or Seidr as it is commonly known, is a practice that is centered around respect for the supernatural beings, worship of the gods, honoring the ancestors, and seeking answers to the mysteries of the universe. Women who practiced Seidr were known as Volva, which roughly translates to ‘wand-bearer’ or ‘carrier of the staff’. These witches were known as seers, prophets, and healers. They are said to be directly descended and trained by Frejya herself, the goddess of magic and witchcraft. Volva are known for practicing knot and weaving magic to control destiny and bring peace, for partaking in sexual rites and magical ceremonies, reading Runes to foretell future events, and performing Seidr alone, known as Utiseta, in a kind of meditation. What little record there is of any male practitioners tells of them being killed and tortured to death for practicing magic, as that was revered, respected and held as the women’s domain.