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Author Topic: Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages  (Read 5135 times)

RandallS

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Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages
« on: May 19, 2013, 01:29:01 pm »


Title: Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages
Author(s): Stephen A. Mitchell
Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press
Publication Date: March 2013
ISBN: 0812222555
ISBN-13: 978-0812222555
Current Price and More Info from Amazon

[size=+1]Description:[/size]
Stephen A. Mitchell here offers the fullest examination available of witchcraft in late medieval Scandinavia. He focuses on those people believed to be able—and who in some instances thought themselves able—to manipulate the world around them through magical practices, and on the responses to these beliefs in the legal, literary, and popular cultures of the Nordic Middle Ages. His sources range from the Icelandic sagas to cultural monuments much less familiar to the nonspecialist, including legal cases, church art, law codes, ecclesiastical records, and runic spells.

Mitchell's starting point is the year 1100, by which time Christianity was well established in elite circles throughout Scandinavia, even as some pre-Christian practices and beliefs persisted in various forms. The book's endpoint coincides with the coming of the Reformation and the onset of the early modern Scandinavian witch hunts. The terrain covered is complex, home to the Germanic Scandinavians as well as their non-Indo-European neighbors, the Sámi and Finns, and it encompasses such diverse areas as the important trade cities of Copenhagen, Bergen, and Stockholm, with their large foreign populations; the rural hinterlands; and the insular outposts of Iceland and Greenland.

By examining witches, wizards, and seeresses in literature, lore, and law, as well as surviving charm magic directed toward love, prophecy, health, and weather, Mitchell provides a portrait of both the practitioners of medieval Nordic magic and its performance. With an understanding of mythology as a living system of cultural signs (not just ancient sacred narratives), this study also focuses on such powerful evolving myths as those of "the milk-stealing witch," the diabolical pact, and the witches' journey to Blåkulla. Court cases involving witchcraft, charm magic, and apostasy demonstrate that witchcraft ideologies played a key role in conceptualizing gender and were themselves an important means of exercising social control.

[size=+1]Special Notes:[/size]


[size=-1]Legal Notes: Some description text and item pictures in this post may come from Amazon.com and are used by permission. The Cauldron is an Amazon Affiliate and purchases made through the Amazon links in this message help support The Cauldron.[/size]

[size=+1]Discussion and reviews of this book are welcome in this thread. If you've read the book, please tell us what you think of it and why.[/size]
Randall
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yewberry

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Re: Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2013, 04:16:29 pm »
Quote from: RandallS;109115
Title: Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages


WANT.

Brina

RandallS

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Re: Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2013, 06:24:02 pm »
Quote from: yewberry;109176
WANT.

It does sound interesting.
Randall
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makaroð

Re: Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages
« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2015, 04:15:19 pm »
Quote from: RandallS;109115
Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages

 
I actually have the Kindle edition of this book and I've tried to get into it several times.  I'd warn anyone interested in reading it that it is definitely dry and an academic work without much flair for prose, and as a result it can be quite a slog.  It is certainly reliable though. :)

Froði Ingsson

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Re: Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages
« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2016, 02:04:23 am »
Quote
Discussion and reviews of this book are welcome in this thread. If you've read the book, please tell us what you think of it and why.

 
Blessings,

I realize this thread was started three years ago. It’s too bad it never took off. I just recently started reading this book a few weeks back and thought I would share some of my thoughts and notes with anyone interested.

Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages is definitely worth a read for anyone interested in Nordic magic. While the title hints at witchcraft, the reality is the author talks about magic in general, specifically the magic found in the Eddas, Sagas, law codes, archelogy, prayer books and sermons, travelers’ tales, comparative religion, folklorists writings and studies, and Christian syncretism. In other words, it’s a very thorough study on Nordic magic.

One thing I appreciate is Mitchell’s efforts to give multiple sides to a story. For instance on page 33 he offers us conflicting beliefs regarding Olaf Tryggvason. There is Snorri’s version written hundreds of years after his death that has him as some kind of Christian Hero king and then there’s Adam of Bremen’s story in his History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen written approximately sixty years after Olaf’s death that claims he practiced magic and divination according to the old ways (82).

While this book might be a little bit too academic and dry for some, if you do find yourself flipping through its pages you’ll undoubtedly learn a lot as I have.

In my next post I will share some of my notes. In the meantime here is a quote to whet your whistle: Two interesting difference between Nordic and Christian magic is that Nordic magic tends to command rather than implore and focuses “on the tangible, whereas the Christian prayers tend to focus on the soul” and the other difference is in “the powers to whom the prayers appeal” to (44).

Be Blessed,
Frodi Ingsson

Froði Ingsson

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Re: Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2016, 03:04:10 am »
Quote from: makaroð;174695
Discussion and reviews of this book are welcome in this thread. If you've read the book, please tell us what you think of it and why.

 
I finished the book. The first half was really good, the second half not so much because the author focused solely on the Christian perspective of witchcraft which is annoying to me. One thing I would like to point out as Elding did in this post http://ecauldron.com/forum/showthread.php?13829-Seidr-Magic&p=198773&viewfull=1#post198773 is that academic circles tend to lump all magical operations as some form of witchcraft or Seiðr, which I myself would not do. I just add this into the conversation because I believe it's important to have that understanding when you go into reading books like this. Here are my notes from the book.  

Three different approaches to working with spirits
  • Supplicative
  • Manipulative
  • Theurgia


Two interesting difference between Nordic magic and Christian is that Nordic magic tends to command rather than implore while Nordic magic focuses “on the tangible, whereas the Christian prayers tend to focus on the soul” in addition to “the powers to whom the prayers appeal [to] differ” (44).

Viking Archeological Sites of Note

Hrísbrú:
http://viking.ucla.edu/archaeology/viking_age_valley_mosfell_hrisbru_archaeology_byock_rg09.pdf

Uppåkra
http://www.uppakra.se/backup/eng/studie_6_eng.htm

“Thirteen-century authors employ[ed] the idea of magic as a way to praise Christianity and demean paganism” by having competitions between whose God/s were more powerful. Just like the Moses story (37).

Love charms were generally of two characters
  • Seductive and coercive (Chapter 75 of Egil’s Saga and The Lay of Skírnir)
  • Anaphrodisiac or outright subverting sexual intercourse (Chapter six of Njal’s Saga and chapter five of The Saga of Bosni and Herraud)


Weather Magic in the Sagas
  • Brennu-Njáls
  • Gísla Súrsson
  • The Sage of the Sworn Brothers
  • Vatnsdaela
  • Víglundar
  • The Saga of the People of Eyrí
  • The Saga of the People of Laxdale
  • The Sage of Óláfr Tryvason


Some of Óðinn’s Magic
  • Enemies blind, deaf, confused, and terrified
  • Dull and bend weapons
  • Change physical shape
  • Put out fires
  • Calm the sea and winds
  • Direct the wind
  • Locating buried treasures
  • Knows songs of earth, rocks, stones, and mounds
  • Unbinding or binding
  • Talk with dead
  • Raise the dead
  • Knowledge of Wyrd
  • Cause bad luck, misfortune, sickness, madness, and death
  • Ethereal travel
  • Divination
  • Decreasing or increasing people’s intelligence and strength


Four Components of a Curse (70)
  • Statement
  • Inscription
  • Activation
  • Galdr


Witch Myths
  • Pacts with the devil
  • Denial of god’s and church’s authority
  • Orgiastic Rites
  • Diabolic and malicious activities
  • Child sacrifice
  • Cannibalism
  • Incest
  • Astral travel
  • Flying
  • Conventicles
  • Second Sight
  • Having young human assistants
  • Having a familiar
  • Stealing food and milk
  • Stealing husbands and children
  • Gossipers and slanderers
  • Cause discord
  • Dry up cows
  • Blight crops


Terms

Weltanschauung: view of life; worldview
Álag, ákvæsði, atkvæði, galdr, taufr: words for incantation and spells
Varðlokur: warlock-song
Magna, siða, taufra, trylla, vitta: to enc hant; charm; bewitch
Fjǫlkyngi: much knowing; manifold knowledge
Trolldómr, foræsða, fornekja, fyrnska: words connected with witchy magic
Tamsvǫndr: taming rod
Gambanteinn: magic wand
Spá, Spádomr, Spásaga, Spámæli, Forspá: terms for prophetic sorcery
Spámaðr and Spákona: words for who practice prophetic sorcery
Fordæðuskapr: Black magic that causes death, illness, and madness
Ljóðatal: list of chants in the Hávamál
Gandreið: witch-ride
Myrkriða: dark-rider
Kveldriða: evening-rider
Hǫrundfall: penis-fall; impotence; frigidity

Secondary Readings

Three other Lays (Grógaldr, Svipdagsmál, and Fjölsvinnsmál):
https://notendur.hi.is//~eybjorn/ugm/svipdag2.html

Hrafnagaldr Óðins
http://www.vsnrweb-publications.org.uk/Text%20Series/Hrafnagaldur%20Odins.pdf

Language of Birds in Old Norse Tradition
http://skemman.is/stream/get/1946/12869/31219/1/The_Language_of_Birds_in_Old_Norse_Tradition.pdf

Berserk for berserkir
http://skemman.is/stream/get/1946/21040/48455/3/Geraty$002c_Lily___Berserk_for_berserkir.pdf

The Dreams of a Bear
http://skemman.is/stream/get/1946/19330/44957/1/The_Dreams_of_a_Bear.pdf

The Role of Horses in the Old Norse
http://skemman.is/en/stream/get/1946/16675/38777/1/Horses_in_the_norse_sources_MIS_thesis.pdf

The Heart of Dread
http://skemman.is/en/stream/get/1946/24268/55302/1/The_Heart_of_Dread_-_MA_Thesis.pdf

“Cursing with the Thistle: ’Skírnismál’ 31, 6-8, and OE Metrical Charm” https://www.jstor.org/stable/43342952?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

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