Seidr: Revitalizing the Soul of the North

Seidr (Seiðr: pronounced “sigh-ther” or “say-ther”, emphasis on first syllable. I don’t use the proper spelling intentionally to optimize search engine functionality) is a spiritual-shamanic tradition that was practiced in pre-Christian Northern Europe, primarily in the Germanic and Norse regions. The practitioners of Seidr were called Völvas, meaning “staff-carriers”, or alternatively Seiðmann (Seiðr -man), Seiðkona (Seiðr -woman), or Seiðberendr (transgender).   Völvas would travel between villages and serve as healers and oracles.  Some would serve in an oracular capacity by sitting on a High Seat, a ceremonial seat from which the Völva would enter a trance state and speak to the community.  Seidr practitioners lived outside the normal cultural roles of the time.  Female practitioners would travel, be independent of family and the standard duties of women, and would often not have children of their own.  Male practitioners were unique in that they were accessing the life force energy of the root feminine nature.  Practitioners would not be affiliated with any particular clan or village, but would instead serve the populace as a whole.

Seidr practice today is distinguished by the use of staff as medicine ally, the use of song for journeys into the spirit realities, the ceremonial High Seat, a close association with the Tree of Life and the Well of Wyrd, and a relationship to the most compassionate aspects of the tutelary deities Freya, Óðinn, Hella, and the Norns.

Seidr is a mediumistic practice, meaning the practitioner’s consciousness becomes a medium for the transmission of other forms of consciousness which includes impersonal energetic fields (like the field of compassion) or the fields of other conscious beings such as deity figures.  In the Seattle Seidr community we practice what is called conscious mediumship, which means the practitioner does not lose consciousness or relinquish personal sovereignty, but instead shares the conscious state with the spirit or quality of energy being channeled.  Völvas then become what I call “oracular complexes” which include the consciousness of the practitioner, the channeled spirit, and associated energy transmission fields.

The High Seat and Seattle Seidr

Seattle Seidr, an organization and community I co-founded with Mykol Radziszewski, emphasizes the importance of accountability on the part of the practitioners as well as the seekers of oracular insight. In neither role should personal sovereignty and power be given away to a channeled spirit. High Seat transmissions are for guidance, healing, and direction, and ultimately inform and invoke the seeker’s own wisdom and knowing. The training for a Seidr practitioner includes extensive personal work so that the practitioner is strong and clear within his or her own energy, is living his or her personal destiny, and is not abdicating self-sovereignty to a spiritual power.

The Norse and Germanic communities in which Seidr was practiced had a strong sense of personal honor and the importance of community. It was recognized that the actions of an individual impact the community on a deep spiritual level, and vice versa.  The spiritual-symbolic representation of this concept in Seidr is örlög and the Well of Wyrd. Örlög, a word possibly related to the geologic concept of laying down strata, is the energetic accumulation of all past actions – ancestral, communal, and personal – that then becomes the energy from which an individual and community can draw from to inform the present.  In other words, what we do becomes the very substance of what we can do.  Örlög is drawn from the Well of Wyrd and like a thread that is woven by the Norns, the elder race of spirits that tend to the Well and with its water nourish the Tree of Life.  What we do goes into the Well, then the Well becomes our Source and the source of nourishment for the Tree of Life.  Seen in that way, our actions take on additional weight and significance.  This conceptualization also demonstrates our interdependence and dispels the illusion that what we do personally only impacts ourselves, as groups of related people like communities or families draw from the same well.  Seidr ceremonies like the High Seat are intended to generate “good örlög” that will be of benefit to all individuals, the community, the next seven generations, the past seven generations, and all sentient beings.

Very few of the specifics of Seidr practice was retained in documents that survived the Christianization of Europe, but the spirit of Seidr is potent and accessible to present-day practitioners with training in other forms of shamanic and spiritual practices. There are several groups dedicated to the revitalization of Seiðr-based practices: Yggdrasil in Europe, Hrafnar in the Bay Area, and Seattle Seidr in Seattle.

Seattle Seidr is dedicated to developing a ceremonial community in Seattle that uses Seidr practices to inform and benefit our modern-day experience. Seattle Seidr offers the ceremonial High Seat in Seattle once a month.  E-mail seattleseidr at gmail.com to get on the mailing list, or use the sign-up form found here: http://www.melissarosenberger.com/seattle-seidr/

Seattle Seidr also offers classes and initiations into the practice of Seidr for those who already have at least one year of shamanic/spiritual training. For those who do not have prior shamanic/spiritual training I offer a foundational class called the The Sacred Ways of Women that will provide the basic skills necessary to be initiated into Seidr practice.