In 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.
The High Chair is simply a place of honour, nothing more. The seiδrhjallr and the hasǽti are two entirely different entities and certainly not synonymous. The hasǽti in this case was simply a place of honour afforded to the seiδkona Þorbjǫg as was the custom back then during a time of crisis for the farmstead was experiencing a prolong famine at that time. This was not a gothic experience but normal custom and practise for the head of the farmstead to invite and offer a place of honour to the vǫlva in the hope of gaining her favour to change their fortunes as well as obtaining advice via her divination into the course of events to unfold. The reputation of these holy women were so feared back then that people were afraid even of her gaze upon them. The key to the whole account lies with the Christian female Guδriδr’s song kvæδi as it seems that the spirits according to the vǫlva Þorbjǫg were pleased with the singing. In the saga accounts, nothing is said however as to whether Guδriδr’s kvæδi had any effect on the participants there. The folklorist and late esteemed scholar, Dag Strömbäck however argued in his interpretation of the meaning behind the varδlokka song that that there must have been some trace of shamanic ritual:
“Varδlokkur refers to that special song used to recall the soul of the one shamanizing to the body lying in a state of ecstatic exhaustion.” < Strömbäck 1935-139>
The Chicanery of Seiðr
Part One: The Historical Seiðr Praxis
©Rig Svenson 2015
Only 15 or 20 chair-amulets have been found in Scandinavia, and just two of them in Denmark. One was found in Hedeby, an important Viking trade center now just over the Danish border in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. The other at Lejre in Zealand in 2009. They have differences in design but all date from the late 10th and early 11th centuries. The amulets from Hedeby, Lejre and Nybølle are also quite different, but they share one thing in common. Two things, actually: the clearly identifiable ravens on the back of the chair.