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Thread: Germanic Magic

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    Germanic Magic

    "He who does not believe in miracles, is not a realist."
    (D. Ben-Goerion)


    The use of magic was very normal for ancient peoples, there are numerous historical accounts that prove what influence magic had on them; the Vikings were said to know events before they actually happened due to "mental seeing", armies engaged into battles or avoided them due to good or bad omens, and Attila the Hun decided to retreat to Romania instead of engaging the Germanic/Roman armies because a seeress told him he would lose, it can easily be said that magic and religion have sometimes changed the course of history, whether they exist or not.

    Personally I am a very sceptical person though I must admit that I have met some interesting people in my life who could do things that really made me doubt now and then.

    Practitioners of magic were both feared and highly respected by the Germans, magic was often seen as something belonging to women; the Germans believed that women posessed innate magical powers because they could become pregnant and "create" new lives, it was mostly used by women and men using it were often seen as "soft" or "un-masculine", this does not mean that men did not practice magic; there were lots of male runecasters and other magicians and even the high god Wodan used magic.

    Unlike what modern horror stories try to make us believe, magic was not something evil; it was mostly used for religious purposes or to help others, many people visited magicians for help or advice, however, there were also charms and curses that could be used against enemies.

    Many Germans were what we would now call "supersticious"; they had all kinds of rituals to ensure a good harvest, to make wounds heal more quickly, or to ask protection, in the Stone Age so called "Venus-idols" (small idols of plump, pregnant women) were buried in the earth to make the soil more fertile, I am not entirely sure whether or not the Germans had this custom too but I wouldn't be surprised if they did, some time ago archeologists in the Netherlands found a small piece of wood inscribed with a proctective charm in runic writings; it was probably used as a talisman to ensure save travels.

    It is difficult to distinguish between the various forms of magical arts that existed; they all overlapped eachother and most magicians often used combinations of the different forms, however, I shall try to give an impression of the various forms of magic the Germans used:


    Galdraz:
    Proto-Germanic "Galdraz" or Old Norse "Galdr" means "to chant" or "to sing", which may refer to magical songs that were sung, it can also be possible that magical charms were chanted to make them work. Galdraz was one of the most basic forms of magic, no magical skills were needed for most of its aspects and everybody could learn it, it seemed to have mainly consisted of chanting charms and performing magical rituals.

    Another form of magic that seemed to have been connected to Galdraz is Runic magic; the practitioning of magic by using runes, runes should preferably be made of wood from fruit-bearing trees and had to be "initiated" by prayers and rituals, sometimes blood was dripped on them to grant them extra powers.

    During the casting one took the runes and tossed them on the ground, the way they laid was interpretated to "read" the future; it depended on if a rune laid upside down, which runes laid together, etc.

    Some good information about runecasting can be found at http://www.futhark.com/casting.html.


    Spaho:
    The Old Norse word "Spį" means "wise", it is related to the Saxon word "Spāh", which means the same, both are derived from Proto-Germanic "Spaho", which means "to spy" or "to explore" ("spieden" in Dutch); it was the practice of seeing the future and someone's personal fate (Urulaga).

    A woman practicing Spaho is believed to have been called a Spahokweniz (Spįkona= "wise/exploring woman" in Old Norse) or Völva (="fortuneteller" in Old Norse) and a man is believed to have been called a Spahomannaz (Spįman= "wise/exploring man" in Old Norse), a common word for both male and female users of Spaho was "weitagon" (prophet/ess) because they were believed to posess the gift of prophecy.

    An interesting example can be found in the Grķpisspį, a work from the Edda in which the hero Sigurd (Siegfried) asks Gripir (a man practicing Spaho) about his fate:

    Męla nįmu
    ok margt hjala
    žį er rįšspakir
    rekkar fundusk.

    Siguršr kvaš:

    "Segšu mér, ef žś veizt,
    móšurbróšir!
    hvé mun Sigurši
    snśa ęvi?"

    They began to talk,
    and much to tell,
    when the sagacious men
    together met.

    Sigurd said:

    "Tell me, if thou knowest,
    my mother's brother!
    how will Sigurd's
    life fall out?"


    Gripir tells Sigurd about his future but stops after some time, Sigurd asks why but Gripir keeps avoiding his questions:

    Siguršr kvaš:

    "Nś fęr mér ekka
    orš žatstu męltir,
    žvķ at žś fram of sér
    fylkir lengra,
    veiztu ofmikit
    angr Sigurši;
    žvķ žś, Grķpir, žat
    gerr-a segja."

    Sigurd said:

    "Now bring me grief
    the words thou speakest;
    for thou foreseest, king!
    much further;
    thou knowest of too great
    calamity to Sigurd;
    therefore thou, Gripir!
    wilt not utter it."


    After some time Gripir gives in and tells Sigurd about his own death:

    Grķpir kvaš:

    "Nś skal Sigurši
    segja görva,
    alls žengill mik
    til žess neyšir;
    muntu vķst vita
    at vętki lżgr;
    dœgr eitt er žér
    dauši ętlašr."

    Gripir Said:

    "To Sigurd I will now
    openly tell,
    since the chieftain me
    thereto compels:
    thou wilt surely find
    that I lie not.
    A certain day is
    for thy death decreed."


    Another interesting example can be found in the Völuspį ("Seeress' prophecy"), where Odin asks a seeress about the fate of the universe, she then tells him of Ragnarök and how he and the other gods will die.

    Seiža: Seiža (Proto-Germanic) or Seiš (Old Norse) was the most advanced form of magic, "Seiža" means something like "sight" or "seethe" and was an invention of the Wanen/Vanir gods, especially the godess Freya was known for her magical arts and the god Wodan often learned magic from her.

    To make things more complicated; there were different forms of Seiža like Shamanic Seiža, Seething, Mind control, Shapeshifting into an animal, etc. Seiža could be used to make spirit yourneys to other worlds (Soul-travel), treatment of psychiatric problems, magical healing, influencing weather, or serving as a medium for the gods to speak through, the most important part of Seiža seems to have been mind control; creating illusions, making someone forget certain things, causing extreme fear, making someone crazy, giving him a headache, etc. it was also possible to see the future or someone's fate, this was done in another way then Spaho; instead of seeing the future herself a Seiža-practitioner summoned spirits to tell her the future.

    A woman practicing Seiža was probably called a Seižakweniz (Seiškona= "seething woman" in Old Norse) and a man is believed to have been called Seižamannaz (Seišman= "seething man" in Old Norse), practitioners of Seiža always worked alone; it was rare to find them working together.


    Sisu:
    Sisu, or "Siso" in Old Saxon, was some sort of magic based on death rituals, it involved mourning over the body of the deceased and performing rituals to make sure the journey to the afterlife would succeed, unfortunately little is known about this type of magic so I can't go into any details here.


    Witches:
    The witch is believed to be a Germanic invention but actually it is a Christian invention based on Germanic folklore, the Germans believed that certain problems like the failing of a harvest was the work of evil magic-users or angry Nornes, gods, spirits, or other supernatural beings, this beings were not seen as evil; just like "mother nature" they could do both well and ill.
    In several European countries there was the belief in "white women" or "witte wieven" who were also associated with witches, I have written a text about them that can be found here).

    During the Christianization of Europe, everything that had a connection to the old heathen religion was demonized and accused of having links with the devil; the Nornes, Alfen, gods, etc. all became "servants of Satan" or "witches" and fairy rings were seen as the meeting places of those witches, fairy rings are mushroom cirles that sometimes occur in woods and fields, this circles were sacred in the heathen religion because they were believed to have been created by dancing Alfen or other nature spirits, the Turkey Nail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) was also associated with Alfen, the Dutch name of this mushroom is still "Elfenbankje", which means "little Alfen-seat", the White Bryony (Bryonia cretica/Bryonia dioica) was also associated with Alfen and a Dutch folkname for this plant is "Alfpape", the same goes for the Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara), which was named "Alfrank", other heathen holy places were of course also told to be visited by witches to keep the people away from them.

    In the later Christian society women who had scars on their body were believed to have had intercourse with the devil and magic-practitioners were believed to have sold their soul to him, the holy beings of Germanic religion were degraded to ugly old women with pointy hats and black cats who flew around on broomsticks at night.

    Witches were also believed to be able to transform into animals and their evil power was said to be at its strongest during Walpurgis night (a Christianized variation of the heathen Ostara festival), by connecting the remnants of the heathen Spring festival to the "forces of evil" the church managed to stop the people from ever celebrating this ancient festival again.

    Women (and sometimes men) who were accused of being a witch were tortured into confession and then stoned to death or burned at the stake, sometimes the "witch" also had to perform all kinds of tests to prove that she was not a witch; in the Netherlands for instance there was a test that was called the "waterproef" (water-test); the right toe of the woman was tied to her left thumb after which she was thrown into the water, witches were believed to be very light-weighted so if she started to float she was considered a witch and if she drowned she was considered innocent, as you can understand the outcome of the test did not really matter to the accused woman because she would die anyway.

    In later times the test was made more humane; the "witch" was now brought to a "waag" (building where goods were weighed) and there she was weighed, if she was too light-weighted she was considered a witch but if she had a normal weight she was released; if this test would have been executed fairly every single person who was accused of witchcraft would have been released, but in most places the people had rigged the balance so that they themselves could determine whether the woman was guilty or not, one of the few places in the Netherlands where the weighing was done more fairly was in the city of Oudewater, so most "witches" begged their judge to be weighed there.

    The witch trials continued until the 19th century AD (!), in some rural areas of Europe it even continued for a much longer time (even until this day) but in most places they were eventually forbidden.

    Nowadays we laugh about stories of women casting spells and flying around on broomsticks but in the Middle Ages this belief cost the lives of hundreds, maybe even thousands of innocent people; women who were paranormally gifted, had scars, had a black cat, looked funny, or had not been nice enough to their neighbours were accused of being witches and were often drowned or burned alive by followers of a religion that was propagating charity, tolerance, and respect of human lives.

    As for magic, just look around you; look at the earth, the living beings, the universe, and all the other wonders that exist, magic may be just as real as magnetism and gravity.


    Source: http://www.geocities.com/reginheim/magic.html


    Die Sonne scheint noch.

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    A bit of topic, but you refer to reginheim a lot. Why not open one tread for that site to promote it instead of opening a lot of treads for seperate parts of it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by GroeneWolf View Post
    A bit of topic, but you refer to reginheim a lot. Why not open one tread for that site to promote it instead of opening a lot of treads for seperate parts of it?
    Because I prefer to discuss each topic separately.


    Die Sonne scheint noch.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dagna View Post
    Because I prefer to discuss each topic separately.
    That is good reason. But the problem is that Ansuzherjaz hardly put his sources in his articles. And also there are more sources for the different subjects out there. But to make an ontopic response :

    I advise the follwing book Leechcraft: Early English Charms, Plantlore and Healing, alto it doesn't deal with magic in general. It does however deals with the herbal and healing lore of the Anglo Saxons. Including the magical charms they deployed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dagna View Post
    Germanic Magic

    Spaho:

    The Old Norse word "Spá" means "wise", it is related to the Saxon word "Spâh", which means the same, both are derived from Proto-Germanic "Spaho", which means "to spy" or "to explore" ("spieden" in Dutch); it was the practice of seeing the future and someone's personal fate (Urulaga).

    A woman practicing Spaho is believed to have been called a Spahokweniz (Spákona= "wise/exploring woman" in Old Norse) or Völva (="fortuneteller" in Old Norse) and a man is believed to have been called a Spahomannaz (Spáman= "wise/exploring man" in Old Norse), a common word for both male and female users of Spaho was "weitagon" (prophet/ess) because they were believed to posess the gift of prophecy...............


    Another interesting example can be found in the Völuspá ("Seeress' prophecy"), where Odin asks a seeress about the fate of the universe, she then tells him of Ragnarök and how he and the other gods will die.
    http://www.geocities.com/reginheim/magic.html

    It is worth reinforcing this section. Voluspa is the first book of the old Edda - and surely one of the most important. Volu is the genative from Volva - meaning seeress and spa, as above , indicates 'prophecy' - hence of course, the far seeing Prophecy of the Seeress......


    .... and it is worth adding that not all the Gods "die" - in spite of what some may think. For the green earth rises anew.....

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