You don’t need to be a spákona to see that

It’s funny. The entire time I’ve been a polytheist I’ve had friends and romantic partners who venerated the Norse deities, and my interest in Scandinavian literature even predates that. (There’s a story there, but I’ll save it for another time.) Consequently I’m pretty familiar with the description of Þorbjörg’s regalia and preparations as a Völva found in Eiríks saga rauða:

A high seat was set for her, complete with a cushion. This was to be stuffed with chicken feathers. When she arrived one evening, along with the man who had been sent to fetch her, she was wearing a black mantle with a strap, which was adorned with precious stones right down to the hem. 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 top. About her waist she had a linked charm belt with a large purse. In it she kept the charms 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 gloves of catskin, white and lined with fur. When she entered, everyone was supposed to offer her respectful greetings, and she responded by according to how the person appealed to her. Farmer Thorkel took the wise woman by the hand and led her to the seat which had been prepared for her. He then asked her to survey his flock, servants and buildings. She had little to say about all of it. That evening tables were set up and food prepared for the seeress. A porridge of kid’s milk was made for her and as meat she was given the hearts of all the animals available there. She had a spoon of brass and a knife with a handle of walrus-tusk, which was mounted with two rings of brass, and the point of it was broken off.

Many contemporary Heathen spiritworkers have modeled their practice on this passage – but between you and me I’ve always kind of wondered if this was fairly standard for Völur at the time, something particular Þorbjörg’s Gods and Spirits had requested of her or just random shit the author of the saga cobbled together, figuring it sounded like the sort of thing magical types would be into (possibly influenced by Homer and Vergil, depending on his degree of Classical literacy.) I’m generally of the opinion that it’s a combination of one and two, with the caveat that it likely reflects contemporary practices of the time when this incident was set, rather than the 14th and 15th century when this saga was included in the Hauksbók and Skálholtsbók and published.

But that’s not why I’m writing about this. I probably haven’t read the full Eiríks saga rauða since shortly after I got out of high school, so I’d forgotten the framing story this scene appears in. Here is Wikipedia’s synopsis:

The events of the Saga of Erik the Red occur in the late 10th century, by which point Christianity had entered the Norse world from Norway to Iceland and Greenland. Upon Thorbjorn and Gudrid’s migration to Greenland, they find themselves facing a famine. A group staying at the farm of Thorkel summon a seeress by the name of Thorbjorg to relieve them. Thorbjorg wears a string of beads around her neck, a yonic symbol associated with the goddess Freyja. Upon her head she wears a hood lined with catskin and on her hands she also wear catskin gloves. Freyja’s chariot was pulled by cats and the goddess is associated with fertility and magic. The settlers hoped that appealing to the fertility goddess would relieve them of their famine. Gudrid learned magic runes from her heathen foster mother, but is reluctant to help the seeress with the ritual for she is a Christian. Gudrid is convinced to sing the chant for the seeress anyway, relieving the famine and also reaffirming the belief in pagan gods.

That’s really quite lovely.

There needn’t be enmity between worshipers of the Old Gods and those of the White Christ. Christians just need to give up the kind of arrogance, malice, and love of conquest that Galina and Tetra recently wrote about – or remember the story of Freydís.

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