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The Viking Way: Magic and Mind in Late Iron Age Scandinavia

The Viking Way: Magic and Mind in Late Iron Age Scandinavia

$ 49.99

Magic, sorcery and witchcraft are among the most common themes of the great medieval Icelandic sagas and poems, the problematic yet vital sources that provide our primary textual evidence for the Viking Age that they claim to describe. Yet despite the consistency of this picture, surprisingly little archaeological or historical research has been done to explore what this may really have meant to the men and women of the time. This book examines the evidence for Old Norse sorcery, looking at its meaning and function, practice and practitioners, and the complicated constructions of gender and sexual identity with which these were underpinned.

Combining strong elements of eroticism and aggression, sorcery appears as a fundamental domain of women's power, linking them with the gods, the dead and the future. Their battle spells and combat rituals complement the men's physical acts of fighting, in a supernatural empowerment of the Viking way of life. What emerges is a fundamentally new image of the world in which the Vikings understood themselves to move, in which magic and its implications permeated every aspect of a society permanently geared for war.

In this fully revised and expanded second edition, Neil Price takes us with him on a tour through the sights and sounds of this undiscovered country, meeting its human and otherworldly inhabitants, including the Sámi with whom the Norse partly shared this mental landscape. On the way we explore Viking notions of the mind and soul, the fluidity of the boundaries that they drew between humans and animals, and the immense variety of their spiritual beliefs. We find magic in the Vikings' bedrooms and on their battlefields, and we meet the sorcerers themselves through their remarkable burials and the tools of their trade. Combining archaeology, history and literary scholarship with extensive studies of Germanic and circumpolar religion, this multi-award-winning book shows us the Vikings as we have never seen them before.

Table of Contents

List of figures and tables
Preface and acknowledgements to the first edition
Preface and acknowledgements to the second edition
A note on language
A note on seid

1. Different Vikings? Towards a cognitive archaeology of the later Iron Age
A beginning at Birka
Textual archaeology and the Iron Age
The Vikings in (pre)history
The materiality of text
Annaliste archaeology and a historical anthropology of the Vikings
The Other and the Odd?
Conflict in the archaeology of cognition
Others without Othering
Indigenous archaeologies and the Vikings
An archaeology of the Viking mind?
2. Problems and paradigms in the study of Old Norse sorcery
Entering the mythology
Research perspectives on Scandinavian pre-Christian religion
Philology and comparative theology
Gods and monsters, worship and superstition
Religion and belief
The invisible population
The shape of Old Norse religion
The double world: seiðr and the problem of Old Norse ‘magic’
The other magics: galdr, gandr and ‘Óðinnic sorcery’
Seiðr in the sources
Skaldic poetry
Eddic poetry
The sagas of the kings
The sagas of Icelanders (the ‘family sagas’)
The fornaldarsögur (‘sagas of ancient times’, ‘heroic sagas’)
The Bishop’s sagas (Biskupasögur)
The early medieval Scandinavian law codes
Non-Scandinavian sources
Seiðr in research
3. Seiðr
Óðinn the sorcerer
Óðinn’s names
Freyja and the magic of the Vanir
Seiðr and Old Norse cosmology
The performers
Witches, seeresses and wise women
Women and the witch-ride
Men and magic
The assistants
Towards a terminology of Nordic sorcerers
The performers in death?
The performance
Ritual architecture and space
The clothing of sorcery
Masks, veils and head-coverings
Drums, tub-lids and shields
Staffs and wands
Staffs from archaeological contexts
Narcotics and intoxicants
Songs and chants
The problem of trance and ecstasy
Engendering seiðr
Ergi, níð and witchcraft
Sexual performance and eroticism in seiðr
Seiðr and the concept of the soul
Helping spirits in seiðr
The domestic sphere of seiðr
Divination and revealing the hidden
Hunting and weather magic
The role of the healer
Seiðr contextualised
4. Noaidevuohta
Seiðr and the Sámi
Sámi-Norse relations in the Viking Age
Sámi religion and the Drum-Time
The world of the gods
Spirits and Rulers in the Sámi cognitive landscape
Names, souls and sacrifice
Noaidevuohta and the noaidi
Rydving’s terminology of noaidevuohta
Specialist noaidi
Diviners, sorcerers and other magic-workers
The sights and sounds of trance
‘Invisible power’ and secret sorcery
Women and noaidevuohta
Sources for female sorcery
Assistants and jojker-choirs
Women, ritual and drum magic
Female diviners and healers in Sámi society
Animals and the natural world
The female noaidi?
The rituals of noaidevuohta
The role of jojk
The material culture of noaidevuohta
An early medieval noaidi? The man from Vivallen
Sexuality and eroticism in noaidevuohta
Offense and defence in noaidevuohta
The functions of noaidevuohta
The ethnicity of religious context in Viking-Age Scandinavia
5. Circumpolar religion and the question of Old Norse shamanism
The circumpolar cultures and the invention of shamanism
The shamanic encounter
The early ethnographies: shamanic research in Russia and beyond
Shamanism in anthropological perspective
The shamanic world-view
The World Pillar: shamanism and circumpolar cosmology
The ensouled world
The shamanic vocation
Gender and sexual identity
Eroticism and sexual performance
Aggressive sorcery for offence and defence
Shamanism in Scandinavia
From the art of the hunters to the age of bronze
Seiðr before the Vikings?
Landscapes of the mind
The eight-legged horse
Tricksters and trickery
Seiðr and circumpolar shamanism
Two analogies on the functions of the seiðr-staff
The shamanic motivation
Towards a shamanic world-view of the Viking Age
6. The supernatural empowerment of aggression
Seiðr and the world of war
Valkyrjur, skaldmeyjar and hjálmvitr
Female warriors in reality
The valkyrjur in context
The names of the valkyrjur
The valkyrjur in battle-kennings
Supernatural agency in battle
Beings of destruction
Óðinn and the Wild Hunt
The projection of destruction
Battle magic
Sorcery for warriors
Sorcery for sorcerers
Seiðr and battlefield resurrection
Seiðr and the shifting of shape
Berserkir and ulfheðnar
The battlefield of animals
Ritual disguise and shamanic armies
Ecstasy, psychic dislocation and the dynamics of mass violence
Homeric lyssa and holy rage
Predators and prey in the legitimate war
Weaving war, grinding battle: Darraðarljóð and Grottas˛ongr in context
The ‘weapon dancers’
7. The Viking way
A reality in stories
The invisible battlefield
Material magic
Viking women, Viking men
8. Magic and mind
Receptions and reactions
Cracks in the ice of Norse ‘religion’
Walking into the seiðr: contested interpretations of Viking-Age magic
Questioning Norse ‘shamanism’
Staffs and spinning
Queering magic?
The social world of war
The Viking mind: a conclusion

Primary sources, including translations
Pre-nineteenth-century sources for the early Sámi and Siberian cultures
Secondary sources
Sources in archive

8.4 x 1.2 x 11.2 inches

432 pages

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