Language, Myth, and Magic

in Medieval Norse and Early Germanic Sources

A self-paced online class to get you started in the exploration of Old Norse and early Germanic cosmological and mythical sources.

Many people are familiar with aspects of Norse mythology that have been filtered through modern media productions, but where does information on Norse mythology, cosmology, and magic come from and what does it look like in its earliest recorded form? This course provides a foundation of knowledge for those interested in creating Norse-based modern ritual, exploring ancestral connections, or just have a general interest.

This course provides:

  • Over five hours of video instruction, four songs for potential ritual practice, and recommendations of additional resources for those who want to take their learning further.
  • An overview of the Roman and medieval source materials.
  • Instruction and practice in the pronunciation of the Old Norse language.
  • Videos on accounts of interaction with the otherworldly through divination, dreaming, and communication with the dead.
  • An overview of how Norse magical practices such as runic magic, galðr (sung magic), and seiðr (a shamanistic, trance-mediumship practice) are represented in the source texts.
  • A more in-depth look at seiðr as an example of how modern practitioners have taken information from the source texts and created templates for modern practice.

See below for short descriptions of the course’s five sections.

Questions? E-mail Maris at livingvoicemedicine@gmail.com

Norse Mythology and Cosmology: Sources, Modern Commentary, and Issues of Translation

Many are familiar with elements of Old Norse Mythology through modern media, but where does this information come from and what does it say in its earliest recorded form? The original material can be rather different from modern portrayals. And how the material is portrayed can make a difference in how it is engaged. In particular, when the myths are interpreted allegorically their character and message can change dramatically. In this class I introduce the sources of the Old Norse mythology and cosmology with recommendations for modern interpretation and analysis. I will also demonstrate how translator bias and the act of taking a piece of writing out of its temporal and cultural context can create different perceptions of the material.

Introduction to the Old Norse Language: Pronunciation and Basic Features of Grammar

Learn Medieval Reconstructed Old Norse pronunciation. How do you pronounce seiðr, Hvergelmir, Völuspá, Yggdrasill, Veðrfolnir, Hræsvelgr, valkyriur? Because many authors write names and terminology in Old Norse, it becomes much easier to read modern material on Old Norse subjects if you know how to pronounce Old Norse. This course will provide instruction on how to pronounce Medieval Reconstructed Old Norse, videos for practice, and accompanying ritual songs I created from stanzas of medieval Norse poetry. We will also cover basic elements of Old Norse grammar that are useful to know when looking at Old Norse text.

Divination, Dreams, and the Prophetic Dead

Starting with the Germanic tribes in 1st century BC and then jumping in time to medieval Iceland we will look at historic and literary portrayals of divination practices, dreaming as a medium of interaction with otherworldly forces, and communication with the dead for prophetic knowledge.

Galðr, Runes, and Other Forms of Old Norse Magic

Much of our information about Old Norse magic comes from medieval literary sources, in particular the sagas. Because of this literature we have some record of what pre-Christian ritual and magical practices were like, though we must keep in mind that literary text does not necessarily reflect real-life practices and beliefs. Despite this potential limitation, I think it is reasonable to assume that these practices had some analogue in the day to day life of the people.

This series with introduce you to the historic references and archaeological evidence for Old Norse magical practices including runic magic, galðr (sung magic), perceptual manipulation, and ritual processes like curse making. Seiðr will be covered in more detail in the next section.

Seiðr: Past and Present

Seiðr is a shamanistic trance-mediumship practice attested to in the medieval Norse sagas and Eddic poetry. Archaeological grave evidence supports the existence of staff-carrying people who may have been practitioners of seiðr. More recently, spirit-workers have endeavored to create a modern, vital, version of this practice. In this class I will talk about seiðr in both its past and one of its present versions.