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Völva

Völva.

A völva is a female shaman and seer in Norse religion. Volva practiced seiðr, spá and galdr, practices which encompassed shamanism, sorcery, prophecy and other forms of indigenous magic associated with women. Seiðr in particular had connotations of ergi (unmanliness), a serious offense in Norse society.

Depictions of volva show that they were held in high esteem and believed to possess such powers that even the father of the gods, Odin himself, consulted a vǫlva to learn what the future had in store for the gods. They would appear dressed in a foot-length blue or black cloak decked with gems to the hem. In her hand she wielded a wand, the symbolic distaff (seiðstafr), which was adorned with brass and decked with gems on the knob. The seiðkona also wears a blue or black cloak and carries a distaff (a wand which allegedly has the power of causing forgetfulness in one who is tapped three times on the cheek by it).

A vǫlva was an elderly woman who had released herself from the strong family bonds that normally surrounded women in Norse clans. She traveled the land, usually followed by a retinue of young people, and she was summoned in times of crisis. She had immense authority and she charged well for her services. One example is when vǫlva entered the room, she was hailed with reverence by the household, and then she was led to the high seat, where she was provided with dishes prepared only for her. She had a porridge made of goat milk and a dish made of hearts from all the kinds of animals at the homestead. She ate the dishes with a brass spoon and a knife whose point was broken off.

In addition, volvas wanted to serve Freya and represent her in Midgard. They married Viking warlords who had Odin as a role model, and they settled in great halls that were earthly representations of Valhalla. In these halls there were magnificent feasts with ritualized meals, and the visiting chieftains can be likened with the einherjar, the fallen warriors who fought bravely and were served drinks by Valkyries. However, the duties of the mistresses were not limited to serving mead to visiting guests, but they were also expected to take part in warfare by manipulating weaving tools magically when their spouses were out in battle. The vǫlva had greater authority than the aristocratic lady, but both were ultimately dependent on the benevolence of the warlord that they served. When they had been attached to a warlord, their authority depended on their personal competence and credibility

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