Seidr Spirits

         The following is an overview of the spirits common to Seidr beliefs. Spirits appear similar to people, animals, or perhaps plants or terrain. However, they often have unusual features and/or strength and toughness which belie their size. They can form a psychic bond with a person, which grants each certain powers of the other and allows empathic contact even between the material and spirit planes. The benefits of the bond are different for each spirit, and are detailed in the description below.

         A few very powerful spirits can cross directly over into the material world -- much as shamans cross over into the spirit world. Spirits who cross over into the material world usually appear as animals or people. However, sharp-eyed observers will notice odd features which set such spirit apart from other creatures, and anyone with second sight (i.e. who have travelled to the spirit world) can instantly recognize such spirits immediately for what they are. They generally have exceptional strength and toughness compared to usual creatures as well as the benefits listed for their spirit type.

Types of Spirits

These are varied spirits who protect the land, usually appearing as human-like figures who are both beautiful and hideous at once. Freyr is king of the Alfar, ruling from the domain of Alfheim. Those favored by Freyr may become alfar in the afterlife. Their benefits include:
These are female spirits who are protectors of a specific family or clan. However, they can also be merciless judges of their clan's misdeeds. They can take vengeance by controlling family members or rarely by directly striking down a wrong-doer. Freyja is said to be "vanadis" or dis of the Vanir, so a dis' role to its family is as Freyja's to the Vanir. Their benefits include:
The dwarves are distant and mysterious figures who rarely interact with mankind. Their favor would be rare indeed, and would probably come in the form of a one-time gift of an item rather than a spirit-link.
These are land spirits older than the alfar, which protect a specific region or land. They appear as a beast characteristic of their region. Their benefits include:
Traditionally, valkyries are terrible spirits of death, not at all romantic figures. They appear as warrior women, with a distant beauty but also a terrible aura of death. A valkyrie's blessing is rare, and she will aid in victory but never protect her favored from harm.


         The alfar are feared more than favored. The winter sacrifice of Alfablot is intended to appease them. King Olaf Thickleg was buried in a great mound, and afterwards people of the area worshipped him as Olaf the Elf of Geirstadir, with sacrifices and prayers asking for good crops and plenty. In Kormak's Saga, Thordis, a wise woman, explained that Thorward must sacrifice an oxen to the alfar at a certain hillock to cure his wounds.

         The Disirblot is celebrated on the Full Moon at the beginning of winter (in mid-October), with ale, pork, apples, and barley. The Alfablot is in mid-winter.

Spirits in Myths and Sagas

         The landvaettir were spirits of a particular place. Old Icelandic law said that the dragon prow of any approaching ship had to be removed so as not to offend the landvaettir. Bjorn dreamt he made a partnership with a vaettir, and a strange buck joined his goatherd, which increased quickly afterwards. Viewers with second sight could always see many of the invisible spirits about Goat-Bjorn. Another time King Harald Gormsson sent a powerful Finnish shaman on a spirit journey to spy on Iceland, but the vaettir of the land appeared in beast form and drove him off.

         The disir were connected to families rather than to places. The epic heroes Handir and Sorli slew their brother and cried out, "the disir incited us to do this." Thidrandi, son of Hall of Sida in Iceland, was killed by nine women with swords dressed in black after converting to Christianity -- said to be disir angered by his ceasing the usual sacrifices and honors for them. They can withdraw their protection when angered, as they did to King Geirrod, to whom Odin spoke as he died and said, "The disir are angry." Thorgerd and Irpa, clan-goddesses of the Hladhir in Norway (from Njal's Saga) are powerful disir, the only ones referred to by name.

John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Thu Oct 10 16:57:59 2002