Seiðr: Past and Present

Seiðr (Seiðr: pronounced “SAY-ther” in Reconstructed Old Norse) is a spiritual-shamanic tradition that was practiced in pre-Christian Northern Europe, primarily in the Germanic and Norse regions. The practitioners of seiðr were called völur (plural of völva), meaning “staff-carriers”, or alternatively seiðmann (seiðr -man) or seiðkona (seiðr -woman).  Völur would travel between villages and serve as healers and oracles.  Some would serve in an oracular capacity by sitting on a high seat; a ceremonial platform from which the völva would enter a trance state and speak to the community.  Seiðr practitioners lived outside standard cultural roles.  Some female practitioners traveled and were independent of family and the standard duties of women.  Male practitioners deviated from standard male norms as seiðr was considered a “feminine” practice and possibly involved types of gender fluidity.

Seiðr practice today is distinguished by: the use of staffs, the use of song to induce altered states of consciousness, the ceremonial High Seat, and relationship to the most compassionate aspects of the tutelary deities Freya, Óðinn, Hella, and the Norns.

The Hjarta Community

Seiðr is a mediumistic practice, meaning the practitioner’s consciousness becomes a medium for the transmission of other forms of consciousness which includes impersonal energetic fields (like the field of compassion) or the fields of other conscious beings such as deity figures.  In the Hjarta community we practice what is called conscious mediumship, which means the practitioner does not lose consciousness or relinquish personal sovereignty, but instead shares the conscious state with the spirit or quality of energy being channeled.  Practitioners then become what I call “oracular complexes” which include the consciousness of the practitioner, the channeled spirit, and associated energy transmission fields.

Hjarta emphasizes the importance of accountability on the part of the practitioners as well as the seekers of oracular insight. In neither role should personal sovereignty and power be given away to a channeled spirit. High Seat transmissions are for guidance, healing, and direction, and ultimately inform and invoke the seeker’s own wisdom and knowing. The training for a seiðr practitioner includes on-going personal work so that the practitioner is strong and clear within their own energy, is living their personal destiny, and is not abdicating self-sovereignty to a spiritual power.

Very few of the specifics of seiðr practice was retained in documents that survived the Christianization of Europe, but the spirit of seiðr is potent and accessible to present-day practitioners with training in other forms of shamanic and spiritual practices. There are several groups dedicated to the revitalization of seiðr-based practices: Yggdrasil in Europe, Hrafnar in the Bay Area, Seattle Seiðr in Seattle, and Hjarta in Southern Oregon.