Oracular arts vs historical accuracy

Oracular arts vs historical accuracy

There was a woman in the settlement who was called Thorbjorg; she was a prophetess, and was known as the Little Sibyl. She had had nine sisters, but she was the only one left alive. It was her custom in winter to attend feasts; she was always invited, in particular, by those who were most curious about their own fortunes or the season’s prospects. Since Thorkel of Herjolfsness was the chief farmer in the district, it was thought to be his responsibility to find out when the current hardships would come to an end. Thorkel invited the prophetess to his house and prepared a good reception for her, as was the custom when such women were being received. A high-seat was made ready for her with a cushion on it, which had to be stuffed with hen’s feathers.

She arrived in the evening with the man who had been sent to escort her. She was dressed like this: she wore a blue mantle fastened with straps and adorned with stones all the way down to the hem. She had a necklace of glass beads. On her head she wore a black lambskin hood lined with cat’s-fur. She carried a staff with a brass-bound knob studded with stones. She wore a belt made of touchwood, from which hung a large pouch, and in this she kept the charms she needed for her witchcraft. On her feet were hairy calfskin shoes with long thick laces which had large tin buttons on the ends. She wore catskin gloves, with the fur inside.

When she entered the room everyone felt obliged to offer her respectful greetings, to which she responded according to her opinion of each person. Thorkel took her by the hand and led her to the seat which had been prepared for her. He asked her to cast her eyes over his home and household and herds; she had little to say about anything. Later that evening the tables were set up; and this is what the prophetess had for her meal: she was given a gruel made from goat’s milk, and a main dish of hearts from the various kinds of animals that were available there. She used a brass spoon, and a knife with a walrus-tusk handle bound with two rings of copper; the blade had a broken point.

When the tables had been removed, Thorkel went over to Thorbjorg and asked her how she liked his home and people’s behaviour there, and how soon she would know the answer to his question which everyone wanted to learn. She replied that she would not give any answer until the following morning, when she had slept there overnight first.  Late next day she was supplied with the preparations she required for performing the witchcraft. She asked for the assistance of women who knew the spells needed for performing the witchcraft, known as Warlock-songs; but there were no such women available. So inquiries were then made amongst all the people on the farm, to see if anyone knew the songs.

Then Gudrid said, ‘I am neither a sorceress nor a witch, but when I was in Iceland my foster-mother Halldis taught me spells which she called Warlock-songs.’

Thorbjorg said, ‘Then your knowledge is timely.’ ‘This is the sort of knowledge and ceremony that I want nothing to do with,’ said Gudrid, ‘for I am a Christian.’ ‘It may well be,’ said Thorbjorg, ‘that you could be of help to others over this, and not be any the worse a woman for that. But I shall leave it to Thorkel to provide whatever is required.’
So Thorkel now brought pressure on Gudrid, and she consented to do as he wished. The women formed a circle round the ritual platform on which Thorbjorg seated herself. Then Gudrid sang the songs so well and beautifully that those present were sure they had never heard lovelier singing. The prophetess thanked her for the song.

‘Many spirits are now present,’ she said, ‘which were charmed to hear the singing, and which previously had tried to shun us and would grant us no obedience. And now many things stand revealed to me which before were hidden both from me and from others.
‘I can now say that this famine will not last much longer, and that conditions will improve with the spring; and the epidemic which has persisted for so long will abate sooner than expected.

Ref: Eric the Red Saga, Chapter Four based on a 13th C account of the happening in late 10th C Greenland. This is taken from pages 81-84 of The Vinland Sagas, trans. Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1978 (1965)

The practice today of oracular arts on a so called “High Chair” came about from a San Francisco esoteric group called “Hrafnar” (means ravens) led then by Diana Paxon who observed that one of her members allowed spirit possession during one of their eclectic *path workings* spiritualism/voodoo based adapted trance possession sessions. This methodology of “fake it till you make it” has so many flaws and dangers attached to it leaving a trail of psychic burn outs both here in the UK but especially more so in the USA. You will note from the above account that no such possession session ever took place and what we have today posing loosely as seiδr is a modern hybrid so far removed from the original.
According to the Vinland saga, the forth chapter of Erík’s saga rauδa [or the Saga of Erik the Red] details one of the most extensive historical accounts of a seiðr ceremony. What is not considered however is that there were two versions of this treatise? The first version is the Skálholt Book possibly because it was written by a cleric at the Skálholt monastery in south-western Iceland. The second version is believed to be a more detailed account and is known as the Hauk’s Book, written sometime around the year’s c 1306 to 1308 by Hauk Erlendsson who lived from c1265 to 1334 and was a prominent Icelander. But nowhere throughout either versions of the entire corpus of the Saga of Erik the Red does it mention within those pages or detail in any way whether any actual trance induced oracular spirit/god form possession ever took place with the seerest Þorbjǫg and especially on a “High-Chair”. Not one single citation but despite what we factually know from the account, a misdirection remains today by many who still view the texts within the accounts in Chapter Fours of Erík’s saga rauδa as evidence that some sort of ecstasy trance state seiδr oracular divination took place.
See: http://www.academia.edu/10553742/The_Chicanery_of_Sei%C3%B0r
The Chicanery of Seiðr
Part One: The Historical Seiðr Praxis
©Rig Svenson 2015