Seidr Magic

         Seidr is a type of spirit magic practiced among the Vinlanders, originally borrowed by the Norse from their Lapp neighbors many centuries ago. It is sometimes known as "platform magic" for how certain major rituals are cast, where the sorcerer rests in a trance a raised platform. Among the Vinlanders, its practice is restricted to women (at least publically). Male sorcerers are viewed as effeminate, deceitful, and worse. In the sagas, every male sorcerer meets with a miserable and shameful death, though many cast powerful curses as they die.

         Female practitioners -- known as gydja (priestess) and sometimes volva (prophetess) -- are more tolerated, although still not common. They rarely engage in full platform magic, at least not publicly. More often, they will go into trances by singing to prophesy, bestow blessings, and act as seers. They may also direct sacrifices to appease dangerous spirits, usually on autumn "winter nights". A young woman will generally learn her craft from an elder female relative. The degree of dedication varies, ranging from religious devotion to a hobby craft. A dedicated gydja (priestess) will generally be rewarded by gifts in return for prophecy and aid. She will act as a priestess of Freyja, the goddess of passionate love -- who is associated with the Virgin Mary in semi-Christianized Vinland.

         Men are never publically workers of seidhr craft. They would draw inspiration from both Freyja and Odin Val-father (Slain-Father), lord of madness (including poetic inspiration, berserk fury and panic). While acknowledged as an aspect of the Father, Odin is distrusted by Vinlanders. Prayers are instead directed to Thor, Jesus, or Freyr. A male practitioner is rumored to turn into a woman once every eight days, because Freyja would not give her gifts to someone who was always a man. Even Odin had had to take on women's form in order to learn shamanic magic.


         A woman is initiated into seidhr by a journey to the spirit world, an alternate world to the material one. Places in it reflect major features and events in the material world, but it is also a distinct other land with its own inhabitants and geography. On the spirit world, all creatures speak a universal language which can be mutually understood. Its geography is mysterious and complex, being easy to get lost in but possible to find your way almost anywhere. While it is similar to the material world, events in the spirit world have only symbolic or distant meaning for material events. It is a source for prophecy and omens, but not of material facts.

         The journey to the spirit world may take several hours, and the elder practitioner guides the beginner in meditating and singing. Together they fall into a trance and find themselves in the spirit world. The first trip into the spirit world awakens a special spirit called a "fylgia" in Norse ("fetch" is an English translation). The fylgia is said by some to be the other half of the character's soul, the spirit world parallel of the material person. After the first journey, the character will have the indirect aid and guidance of this spirit. The fylgia cannot speak to her in the physical world, but it has an empathic link to her and will grant her certain benefits depending upon its type (cf. the Spirit List for descriptions).

         A woman who has gone through this will have a reputation as a "wise woman" and may lead sacrifices for her family. She may also have simple charms which she is capable of, for healing, midwifery, and other simple duties. She cannot journey to the spirit world safely without guidance, but she may do it safely with an elder or may attempt it on her own under dire circumstances. However, she does have second sight. She can automatically see corporeal spirits for what they are, and see through illusions or other magic.

         To represent the awakening of the fylgia, a character must have a POW of at least 11 and a Discorporate skill of at least 25. She should select a spirit from the Spirit List as this fylgia. She gains the benefits of the totem's favor, so long as she acts in accordance with its wishes. Also, she may roll on her Discorporate skill to sense feelings from her totem spirit about events in the spirit world, but these are vague. Most importantly, she gains second sight, allowing


         A more dedicated practitioner will make frequent trips into the spirit world, and learn the true craft of spirits. She will be known as a gydja (priestess) and possibly a volva (prophetess). The gydja travels to the spirit world by quiet meditation, which may be aided by another woman singing special songs but can with difficulty be done alone. Travel to the spirit world is physically strenuous: the gydja will visibly sweat and tremble as she attempts it. Once in the trance, each hour of travel is the equivalent of perhaps 4 hours without sleep. Once she succeeds, her spirit enters the other world and her body collapses, occaisionally twitching.

         This travel can be the vehicle for prophecy -- asking powerful spirits about what the future will be. Many Nordic spirits are commonly willing to tell the future for a simple price. However, often such foretellings are as much of a burden as they are a blessing, so it is uncommon for gydja to avail themselves of this.

         By such travel, the gydja is also capable of major spells or sendings. To cast these, the gydja mounts a raised platform and falls into a trance, possibly aided by a circle of singers round about the platform. She is recalled from the trance, aided by the single song of a special singer. While in the trance the sorcerer's soul is freed and either goes to seek information about the future, or perhaps goes to attack the object of the ceremony, whose mind and body can be enfeebled and killed. The attack can take a number of forms but always has some visible manifestation.

         A dedicated gydja (priestess) will generally be rewarded by gifts in return for prophecy and magical aid. Relatives and neighbors will come to consult with her on troubling matters, bringing appropriate gifts if they want to stay in her graces. She may act as a priestess of Freyja, the goddess of passionate love, who is associated with the Virgin Mary in semi-Christianized Vinland. This mainly implies leading some family ceremonies for birth, marriage, and seasonal events.

         In many cases, a priestess is not expected to bear the normal duties of marriage. While she certainly may marry, she may instead live by the rewards of those who benefit from her craft. If so, she has a position of power, but it depends upon the accuracy of her prophecy and advice. It does not, however, require celibacy. Celibacy is not seen as a sign of holiness in either the official priests (godi) or the family priestesses (gydja) of semi-Christianized Vinland. A priest will generally marry as usual. A priestess may marry, or may simply have a series of affairs.

John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Thu Oct 10 16:36:10 2002