The High Chair, Platform Magic and the concept of elevation magic

The concept of elevation, physical or mental, was a widespread aspect in seiðr. Written sources and archaeological finds from Norse sites as far apart as the Volga Vikings, Fyrkat in Denmark, Norway and Greenland may serve as examples. Þorbjörg‘s high seat in Eiríks saga rauða, the door frame in Ibn Fadlan‘s report of the burial of a Rus chieftain, the door or lintel in Völsa þáttur,as well as visionary flights induced by mind-altering herbs like henbane (Fyrkat) and cannabis seeds (Oseberg ship) are all ways by which seiðkonur look at the world.

Hvat er þat manna = Who is this man,
mer okunnra = this stranger,
er hundum gefr = who gives to dogs
hæilagt bleti = this holy object?
hefui mig um hiarra = Lift me over the hinge
ok a hurdasa = and the door-beam,
vita ef ek borgit fæ = to see if I can save
blætinu helga = the holy sacrifice.
(Völsa þáttr 13)

Perhaps in an attempt to look into the other world to see whether the blæti (holy sacrifice) can be retrieved, the woman asks to be be lifted over the door hinges. The resemblance between the door frame in Ibn Fadlan‘s report and in the Völsa þáttur and their function to look over them into other worlds is too striking to be accidental, but must be a part of the equipment necessary for visions of this kind (Price 2002, 168). Essentially both rituals are composed of the following elements: Singing or speaking magical strophes, ritual scenery (the doors or the door hinges‘ and the door frame), and above all strong sexual overtones and the motif of looking into other worlds or into the world of the dead“ (Gardela 2008, 67). Again the act of looking over doors, mirrors the idea that in seiðr rituals some sort of elevation is necessary to get a wider perspective and see things (end of the famine, the master of the slave-girl, the lost völsi) in another world.

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