The Norse Völva was essentially a medicine woman during the first centuries of the Viking Age and is found among the Germanic Tribes. She relayed the ancient stories or myths, as found in The Voluspá (Prophecy of the Völva) in the Poetic Edda. She practiced seiðr, which included prophetic arts and trance journeys, held a place outside the boundaries of the usual community structure and was highly respected. In the Saga of Erik the Red, it is related how the entire hall was cleaned and prepared in anticipation of the visit from the Völva.
When she arrived, she is seated at the head, upon a prepared pillow, near the lord and lady of the community. The term völva means ‘staff’ or ‘wand’ carrier, and many burials of these women contain the wooden or iron staffs that they carried as symbols of their profession, and professionals they were, being paid highly and buried richly.
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© Jenn Poniatowski 2015