Hello friends, how are you? Just kidding. Hello everyone. My name is Arith Härger and today I’m going to talk about necromancy in Old Norse religion As you know lately I’ve been talking about the understanding of the concept of the soul in Old Norse spirituality and the parts of the self but before I jump into certain concepts related to the body and the different soul-like entities that have an intimate relationship with the body I thought it would be useful for you to understand the necromantic panorama in Old Norse religion So it will be easier for you to understand future videos concerning the parts of the self also It’s assumed that necromancy is an evil art Highly forbidden, macabre, an abomination But you have to understand that that sort of thinking was foreigner to pagan civilizations and to almost every native tradition before the introduction of Near Eastern monotheism’s such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam Necromancy comes from the ancient Greek word nekuomanteia Which was the art of communicating with the dead for prophetic purposes most pagan religions had a very intense cult of the ancestors and necromancy was very much part of the religious life of ancient pagans in the case of Northern Europe when certain people Classify Seidr as necromancy, they are giving to Seidr itself a pejorative connotation Seidr is not necromancy. But necromancy is just a fraction of Seidr Necromancy is the very basis of shamanism, to speak with the death, to speak with the spirits for a variety of purposes Seidr is- shamanism what you need to understand is that the word “shamanism” is an imperialistic construction and every Native traditional religion, tribal in nature, was labeled “shamanism” But each society has its own word for the act of shamanism and to pre-christian Scandinavians that word was “Seidr” and because of that imperialistic construction I’ve just spoken about many scholars lost the perception that in our own native European traditions we have Shamanism but just because they don’t look tribal or are not from outside Europe Doesn’t mean they are not shamanism; Seidr is shamanism Therefore necromancy is also part of it, but not just that Necromancy was included in Shamanic practices although in the classical world it became a distinct magical art necromancy only gained negative connotations with Near-Eastern monotheisms because to such religions it was forbidden to touch a dead body Because the religious idea was that people should be buried and stay as they lay So they can be resurrected intact Judaism, Christianity and Islam forbade necromancy due to religious beliefs concerning the afterlife and so a lot of negative connotations were built around the term “necromancy” to stop people from messing with dead bodies otherwise in Abrahamic religious perception people would not be resurrected intact if part of the body was missing This is one of the major reasons why medicine in the Western world fell into darkness after the fall of the Roman Empire because with the introduction of Abrahamic beliefs in the early medieval Western society, it was forbidden to touch dead bodies and so people had no clues about the inside of a body therefore impossible to treat certain ailments, certain diseases every person curious enough to open up a body in the name of medicine if caught was labeled “Necromancer” and so a person would be punished and executed Necromancy was about communicating with the dead summoning their spirits talking with the dead ancestors visiting their burial sites Getting information from beyond the grave Necromancy wasn’t and isn’t about: mutilating corpses and play with the entrails and do only the gods know what That’s not being a necromancer, that’s being the sick bastard So I think it’s important to have this perception first And now we may start this video When it comes to pre-christian northern Europe, if we look into the Icelandic sources, we find little or close to nothing about necromancy Simply due to the fact that when oral traditions were put to parchment for the first time Christian influences were already very much rooted in the medieval society of Scandinavia but just because acts of necromancy don’t appear in Icelandic sources Which are the main sources we have about Old Norse traditions doesn’t mean Necromancy did not exist In fact, the earliest written laws of Iceland are quite specific that raising the dead was forbidden which indicates that necromancy existed in the Icelandic society since much of the first Icelanders were Norwegians fleeing from Norway due to religious and political persecution Running away from a Christian style monarchy to be able to keep their old native traditions So they brought with them- necromancy but Christians wrote the laws and so in Iceland when Christianity became the official religion of Iceland obviously necromancy was forbidden We shall have to turn to the poetic Edda and occasionally to the Prose Edda even though being sources greatly tampered with by Christians But they still hold some pagan evidences of the past that haven’t been completely wiped out Quite obviously we shall start with the god Odin “Hoden”
(Swedish pronunciation) whom before being considered the “Alfather”, the king of Asgard and father of all the gods Precisely due to Christian influences. He was a death Germanic deity and the most experienced practitioner of the art of necromancy In the poem Baldrs Draumar, Odin himself rides down to Hel, the realm of the dead He summons a dead seeres from her grave. He uses Galdr to wake up this dead person He chants what is described as “corpse-spells” – Val Galdrar for those certain people out there who think Galdr is the holy art of Odin and Seidr there is the evil art here you have a good example that it isn’t so. you just have to read such sources and poems in which Galdr is used for necromancy Anyway, with this chanting spells Odin woke the seeress and words came from her corpse She gives to Odin what he wishes – the knowledge he deeply craves So she foretells the death of Balder It’s unimportant for this video the entire poem and the death of Balder itself; that stays for another video what is important to retain here is that Odin is able to wake up the dead seeress – a völva and bythe command of his own speech she speaks with him in fact in this poem the dead seeress clearly says that she has spoken unwillingly and at a certain point she wishes to remain silent To which Odin commands “be not silent völva!” and so he continues with the questioning dragging information out of her Odin has this corpse under his control This is the very essence of necromancy, to speak with the dead to get information out of them Information that it’s impossible to have with the living or in the realm of the living the knowledge of the grave of course by now it probably crossed your mind two other poems the völuspá and völuspá hin skamma in völuspá the dead serious is bitten by Odin to tell everything she knows about the past. In this account Odin appears in his guise as Valfódr father of the slain Notice that the use of the term “val” is always connected to works of necromancy, to gain knowledge from the dead In every name beginning with the element “val” as I have shown you in the video I’ve done about Valkyries, for instance In the poem Voluspa just like in Baldrs Draumar This dead seeress will not continue to speak until forced to always giving this idea that Odin maintains the control of the dead corpse What is also curious is that Odin seeks the knowledge of the past the knowledge that no one has Only those who have witnessed the events while alive; only the dead know the past which is why Odin seeks this völva so she can trace for him the history of the worlds in the second poem we are given no reason to why the seeress is waken by Odin and if she is indeed raised from the grave or her spirit is simply summoned by Odin But just like in the previous poems she too is dead and called forth by Odin summoned from the dead by this God to seek- her secrets, to speak her secrets “Much have I told thee, and further will tell” “There is much that I know; wilt thou hear yet more?” she says without a doubt there are close connections between these three poems and they express what necromancy is all about: to speak with the dead for prophetic reasons In these cases the völvur, the prophetesses, being dead and holding the wisdom of the dead are summoned, awakened or raised by Odin and he uses Val Galdar, “corpse spells”, to be able to possess their wisdom If perhaps these poems aren’t reason enough to understand Odin’s connection to necromancy Then consider that in Norse mythology Odin himself carries around Mimir’s head so it can continue to provide secret knowledge and counsel to Odin Odin carries around the severed head that speaks to him and only to him There is another interesting poem called Grogaldr Notice “Galdr” is still being used in here the poem roughly translates to “the spell of Groa” In it Svipdagr before going on a perilous quest Consults his dead mother and begs her to teach him certain charms to guard him against danger he begins with summons to the death until he summons his own mother from the dead and she comes forth; her son summons her spirit and she comes She was called with the intention to share her knowledge and aid her son Svipdagr himself tells his mother that he doesn’t have the necessary wisdom, and experience he requires for his quest. He needs certain magic spells. And so she teaches him in this poem It doesn’t specifically say that groa is in Hel, the realm of the dead but there is no need to Her son bids his mother to come again to her grave mound, and she says one particular phrase That gives us a hint; that she has passed into the earth As I have said in other videos particularly concerning Hel and the realm of the Dead and when I have spoken about Nástrond To the Norse pagans the realm of the Dead wasn’t in some unreachable place in a reality far away The realm of the Dead, much like in almost every pagan culture, was right here in this world the earth beneath our feet Hel only became a realm in some spiritual reality with the introduction of Christianity Comparing this Norse concept of the afterlife with the Infernal realm of the Christian mythology This is the key point to understand- necromancy in pagan societies the dead were reachable, easy to contact with because they shared the same reality as we do But they simply lived in their burial mounds, in their graves, in their tombs This is the reason why many pagan festivities concerning the dead were celebrated in the actual graves burial mounds, tombs and even in the necropolis In Scandinavian celebrations concerning the dead and the cult of the ancestors Were held on the burial mounds The very concept of the Álfar – the elves Were dead ancestors that chose to dwell in their burial mounds or in the earth itself around their old dwellings to continue to support their descendants Pre-christian Scandinavian societies Communicated with their ancestors, with their dead to ask them for protection for the fertility of the fields prosperity and a whole variety of blessings and knowledge of course, and magical wisdom In the comment section of this video I’ll have to leave the links of my previous videos concerning these subjects and you will certainly understand why it’s so important to understand that two pagan societies The realm of the Dead was intimately tied with the world of the living because people virtually shared the same space and so it was easy to reach the dead and speak to them Because they were here, their corpses and their spirits were here This was necromancy, to spend time with the dead Speak to them, summon them And interact with them Odin is obviously the first Norse deity we think about when it comes to necromancy But were there any other Norse deities linked to necromancy? of course there were the beloved goddess, Freyja in the poem Hyndluljód There is a particular mention of a consultation of the dead to obtain knowledge The poem begins with an invocation by Freyja and she awakens Hyndla Supposedly a giant that dwells beneath the earth The scene is set in Valsinni, the road of the slain Freyja wants to know the full lineage of Ottarr, her human lover So she asks Hyndla to recite it, Upon unwillingly share her knowledge, Hyndla goes back to her dwellings and into sleep Hyndla dwells in the earth She’s forcibly awakened by Freya who wants knowledge of the past – the entire list of the ancestors of Ottarr Freya plays a trick on her to get the information she wants and then Hyndla knowing she has been tricked and forced to wake and speak from her deep slumber She goes back to the earth to sleep again This entire account is very similar to the previous examples I have given you Freya is also a Norse deity connected to death Since she is the goddess that takes half of the slain in battle Into our own Hall, so it makes sense Freya’s connection to necromancy and the ability to awaken the dead or the and willing sleepers, and get information from them Notice that in this poem after Freyja wakes up Hyndla the information only comes out while they are on the road of the slain – Valsinni So far the accounts we have concerning necromancy are always set on some road of the Dead or their burial mounds or in Hel itself or on the way to Hel in some place in-between Necromancy was not only about the ability to summon the dead but also Visiting their places as they cannot come into the realm of the living So it’s up to us to visit them to be in direct contact with them this is interesting because we can find some similarities with the accounts of the Draugr, the Norse undead Unfortunately wrongly mistaken by a zombie due to pop culture The Draugr too is a creature that cannot get out of its dwelling place Usually the place where the person was buried and then haunts the place Walking about in physical form. The Draugr is perhaps one of the best examples of Necromancy in Norse mythology and the understanding of the parts of the self As I’ve said in the video about the parts of the self One of the parts of the soul is called Vard or Vördr Which is a warden spirit, a soul-like entity residing within the self The Draugr is the manifestation of this vördr after death; part of the essence of the person Remaining and trapped within the “Likr”, the body, the structure, just the husk The Draugr is the manifestation into the physical world of part of the essence of an individual to be able to act in the realm of the living It’s the way in which the dead can actively be in the world of the living by inhabiting the corpse so the Draugr is the physical evidence of necromancy – to call upon a spirit to inhabit a body and through it gather information This is also very familiar- very similar to the incantation known as Vardlokkur Notice the similarities in the terms Vardlokkur is the song of the warden, the song of the soul. It’s a magical song or Galdr Which was sung in prophetic sessions by Scandinavian seeresses and in such shamanic practices the spirits were called upon from whom the seeresses received knowledge In this case the Vard won’t inhabit a corpse to be able to speak but it will be either present in this shamanic session or will inhabit the body of the unconscious seer and speak to her and through her Don’t worry in future videos I shall develop more about the Draugr and this song Vardlokkur, precisely so I can speak about this specific part of the self called Vard This is the reason why I am making this video about necromancy So you can have certain basic notions So we later on may proceed to other concepts concerning the concept of the soul in Old Norse religion The poem Sigrdrifumal also has some resemblances with the previous examples I have given you Sigurdr Awakens a sleeper to receive knowledge from a woman who has been in deep slumber for ages I’ll put in here the part of the poem where she says she has been asleep for a very long time and that she could not speak because she is Under a magical spell caused by Odin to keep her from speaking She’s under a spell of sleep caused by runic magic this account resembles the same pattern of waking up the dead völva, to have information from the dead Raising the völva from the sleep of death the rest of the account deals with runic spells whose origins are attributed to Odin and this is where I wanted to get She is dead and she was unable to speak because she was under the influence of sleeping runic spells created by Odin as we have seen Odin is connected to necromancy – raising or waking the dead we have also spoken about Galdr – about the use of incantations to speak with the dead But what about the runes? In this poem Sigrdrifumal, gives us a hint of runic spells connected to making the dead speak We shall get back to this poem in a moment There is another account, a poem called Solarljod which informs us that the dead cannot speak This account is just one of several accounts where runes are required to loosen the tongue of a dead person Allowing it to speak Odin carves speech-runes so that a corpse comes and speaks with him Saxo Grammaticus in his history of the Danes There is an account where a person named Hardgrep places a piece of wood carved with runes under the tongue of a dead man, the corpse recovers consciousness and the power of speech and sings a terrible song There are several accounts of these speech-runes given to the dead so they may speak Now returning to Sigrdrifumal, these runes are called Málrunar The tongues of the dead are sealed by death, unless they possess such speech runes These runes are also given to the dead who enter Hel, so they are allowed to speak so if in these accounts we have mansions of runes being used to make the dead speak and such runic spells probably infused with Galdr Maybe it’s safe to say that in pre-christian Scandinavia runes have been used in Necromancy or at least in spells connected to the act of speaking with the dead In Old Norse literature, it’s not just about waking up the dead to get knowledge from them There is also the case of the animation of the dead We have talked about the Draugr Also placing runes in the mouth of dead bodies, and I’ve already mentioned Mimir let’s develop a little more around Mimir, whose head was cut off and sent to the Aesir Odin took the head consecrated it with herbes, and uttered spells over it along with spoken magic – Galdr and so the head was animated and told Odin of many things, many hidden secrets and knowledge This consultation of the Dead is indeed different from the previous accounts It’s part of a dead body Which with the use of magic comes to life again And it’s able to see what is normally hidden from the eyes of the living So perhaps indeed there was some powerful magic at work by using body parts in necromancy But we cannot be certain of that at least in pre-christian Scandinavia Mimir seems to be the only account of the use of a body part in necromancy at least a body part resembling to that of a human because throughout pre-christian Scandinavian religious practices both in written accounts and in the archaeological record We have several indications of animal body parts being used in a variety of spells and rituals but human body parts- Mimir seems to be the only account making a reference to such activities perhaps because it’s an account speaking of the gods and not human characters maybe with the introduction of Christianity The accounts in which human body parts were used for magic were altered or destroyed Or the concept of the Draugr is the only surviving account of necromancy and human body parts But the Draugr Seems something else entirely Raising the dead with incantations by calling upon them and so the spiritual essence – the Vard enters the corpse and The corpse is animated by the spirit perhaps Hervarar Saga is one of the best accounts that helps us to understand the concept of the Draugr and the animated dead It’s a romantic ghost story – saga – in which Hervor, a woman, goes into a haunted island Where her father and brother are buried; she goes there to obtain the sword in herfather’s grave the dead in the grave mounds were standing at their doors and they needed to be somewhat awakened. Hervor calls to them. She speaks two words to awaken them To raise them actually although in this account the dead are disturbed not to obtain knowledge from them but to obtain the magic sword named Tyrfing So in this account as in Mimir’s account the living don’t wake up the sleeping dead but rather seek out the dead body or part of the dead body in order to animate it with new life and obtain wisdom or Something else from it Hervarar saga If you read this account, please do, I think you will love it You will certainly find it very familiar and close to heart if you are an enthusiast of JRR Tolkien’s works especially the Lord of the Rings We have already spoken about Seidr being the Old Norse term to refer to shamanism we have spoken about Vardlokkur, the song chanted in a prophetic session as part of a shamanic activity and now I would like to speak about Sitja uti Sitja uti or “sitting out” Is the type of shamanic divination which is literally spending the night out on crossways and with invocations to the power of darkness Secrets and counsel are revealed, given by the dead It’s not uncommon the mention of being in crossroads to receive knowledge from the dead in ancient pagan cultures The Greek cult of Hekate, was often done in Crossroads Precisely to obtain knowledge from the dead You may also find in Icelandic folklore the mention of uti-seta which is the exact same thing or in old Icelandic it was called “náttseta – “night sitting” Which was a meditative technique performed in the wilds, invocatory meditation you might remember my book review on the sorceress screed You will find in it the sitting out stave which accompanies this necromantic ritual this ritual is to seek knowledge from extra human sources mainly from the dead and other spiritual entities in this ritual if a cemetery is nearby or at least at the end of one of the four roads, it’s preferable This night vigil will be rewarded by the contact a person shall have with entities that will share whatever knowledge they wish to and so there is an Icelandic magical sign to be used to enhance the chances of success with this kind of working – sitja uti, or náttseta The Icelandic magical stave in question is to be used beneath the nape of your neck In conclusion by the study of the sources, we can see that necromancy in Old Norse religion has much more than one single conception of the relationship between the living and the dead There were various approaches to communicating with the dead all of them seem to come from an old tradition concerning the cult of the ancestors always aclear familiarity with the dead and activities performed in close proximity with the dead either in their grave mounts cemeteries and quite possibly other physical locations where the dead reside also necromancy seems to have been a very important activity in Nordic shamanism by the use of Galdr, singing incantations, and runes, the dead and other spiritual entities were called upon to obtain information from them We also have some references of the physicality of- Contacting the dead Raising the dead, the use of their bodies in necromancy, but on those terms we have no real evidences To support the claim that necromancy in pre-christian northern Europe used body parts in some ritualistic performances we have the reference of Mimir, in the Norse myths and quite specific the use of herbs to preserve the head singing intentions etc. It’s possible that body parts may have been used in Norse necromancy since human sacrifices were also performed but That’s pushing too far Since in the written sources, there aren’t enough evidences We know the Celts used the entrails of not just animals but humans too in prophetic sessions the Lusitanians of Western Europe, in Iberia, did the same so it wouldn’t be surprising the use of body parts in necromantic activity for Northern Europe however, as I have said not enough evidences Archaeologically speaking, as far as I know there are no evidences of human body parts in a ritualistic activity. I mean- There was ritual killing, but the bodies were deposited, offered There is no evidence of the use of skulls or limbs in ritual for nothern Europe no signs of scrapping or intentionally breaking However for prehistoric Europe there was cannibalism and we find evidences of it in human remains But cannibalism and the religious activities associated with it have nothing to do with necromancy necromancy was Communicating with the dead to obtain something from them that could not be obtained by other ways In some of the evidences we have analyzed it seems there were Practices connected with the dead body itself and its last resting place. I mean sitting upon a grave mound sacrificing to the grave mound and its dwellers giving life to a dead body through magic, witchcraft, etc. But no evidences that body parts were used in ritual performances In northern Europe by the examples I’ve given you Especially the first examples The völva, the seeress acted as a channel through which Inspiration about what is normally hidden reaches her Either dead or alive the völvur played an important part in necromancy as being the vessels through which the communication with the dead is possible which reinforces this perception of Necromancy being very much part of shamanic activity because after all shamanism is mostly about communicating with spiritual entities for a variety of reasons We also have to take in mind that to our Norse ancestors The Dead resided literally in the earth beneath our feet So praising the dead, making offerings to them the entire basic reasons of the cult of the ancestors Would be for fertility purposes. It’s not just about obtaining knowledge from them but the active role of the ancestors upon the world of the living the manifestation of their powers on the earth It’s quite possible that many acts considered necromancy were actually fertility cults concerning the dead hence the religious performances on grave mounds within someone’s property To propitiate the fertility of the ground The dead ancestor would ensure the continuation of the fertility in the lands that once belonged to the deceased and as such continued to have an active role in the lives of of its descendants All right, my good friends. I hope you have enjoyed this video by the end of this video you will have the list of references I have used if you wish to continue the study of necromancy in Old Norse religion Thank you so much for watching see you on the next video and as always tack för idag!
(Thank you for today!)