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Viking Goddesses and Seeresses

Viking Goddesses and Seeresses

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Viking Goddesses and Seeresses

426 pages
2 hours
Apr 19, 2019


This book is the first of the Forbidden Knowledge series. Where did the power of Viking seeresses, dazzling goddesses, the Nornir, or Fates and the formidable Valkyries come from? To find the answer to this question the authors first examine the Old Norse mythology in order to decipher the ancient wisdom of women. Following this survey, the second part of the book explores what became of these mighty female figures, how their powers were transformed over time. The book is closing with a look at several questions related to the modern day: “How is ‘feminine lore’ understood today?” “What are its roots and how do they still affect humankind?” “How is what this book terms ‘the legacy of sight’ still useful?” The responses will both pinpoint what it is that the Norse women left behind them, and demonstrate how that legacy is still woven into the fabric of the present.
This non-fiction book provides an outstanding analysis and a careful reinterpretation of Icelandic sagas and poems for properly understand the nature and power of the first mistresses of the Icy North. The research presented here goes deep to unveil the real meaning of the medieval chroniclers’ handiwork. Every detail of every Icelandic saga and poem cited in this book has been translated by the authors uniquely from the original manuscripts.
The book contains more than 60 colourful illustrations, an Appendix with nearly 70 separate encyclopaedia articles and hyperlinks to 21 original Icelandic manuscripts and 17 referred websites.

Apr 19, 2019

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Viking Goddesses and Seeresses - E. Kaman

E. Kaman – Éva Pápes

Viking Goddesses and Seeresses

Forbidden Knowledge

Book 1

Translated by Rachel Maltese

Published by Lokay


Viking Goddesses and Seeresses

Forbidden Knowledge

Book 1

ISBN number: 978-1-9990366-0-7

© Kaman – Pápes 2019

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or manual, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the publisher.

Cover graphic and illustrations: Eva Lokay

Translator: Rachel Maltese

Book designer: Ibolya Kálmán

Publisher: Lokay

Visit the authors’ website at



Lady Sun

Lady Moon

Chronicles and Chroniclers

The First Women of the Icy North

The Age of the  Völur

The Beginning and the End


The Wakened Völva

The Age of Goddesses

Menglöð – The Realm

Freyja – The Woman

Gullveig – The War

The Age of the Nornir

The Genesis of Humankind

Beneath the World Tree

The Cloth of Fate

The Age of the Valkyries

Mistresses of Death


The Age of Transition

The Transformation of the Völur

Goddesses sans Thrones

After Menglöð

Twins and Incest

Divine Nornir on Earth

Variations on the Valkyries

Óðin’s Women

The Serving Girls

The Pseudo-Valkyries

The Legacy of Vision

Vestiges of the Realm of Women

Women’s World, Men’s World

Women’s Legacy


Appendix 1. The Viking Age

Appendix 2. Old Norse Literature

Appendix 2.1 The Poetic and the Prose Edda

Appendix 2.2 Certain Songs of the Poetic Edda

Appendix 2.2.1 Völuspá

Appendix 2.2.2 Hávamál

Appendix 2.2.3 Vafþrúðnismál

Appendix 2.2.4 Grímnismál

Appendix 2.2.5 Skírnismál

Appendix 2.2.6 Hárbarðsljóð

Appendix 2.2.7 Hymiskviða

Appendix 2.2.8 Lokasenna

Appendix 2.2.9 Þrymskviða

Appendix 2.2.10 Alvíssmál

Appendix 2.2.11 Baldrs draumar (Vegtamskviða)

Appendix 2.2.12 Rígsþula (Rígsmál)

Appendix 2.2.13 Hyndluljóð / Völuspá in skamma

Appendix 2.2.14 Gróttasöngr

Appendix 2.2.15 Svipdagsmál

Appendix Gróagaldr

Appendix Fjölsvinnsmál

Appendix 2.2.16 Darraðarljóð

Appendix 2.2.17 Hrafnagaldr Óðins (Forspjallsljóð)

Appendix 2.3 A Brief Overview of the Prose Edda

Appendix 2.3.1 Prologue

Appendix 2.3.2 Gylfaginning

Appendix 2.3.3 Skáldskaparmál

Appendix 2.3.4 Nafnaþulur

Appendix 2.3.5 Háttatal

Appendix 2.3.6 Skáldatal

Appendix 2.4 Heimskringla

Appendix 2.5 Early Histories and Collections

Appendix 3. Language and Translation

Appendix 3.1 The Icelandic Alphabet

Appendix 3.2 Kennings

Appendix 3.3 Galdralag

Appendix 3.4 Talking Names

Appendix 4. Old Norse Words and Texts

Appendix 4.1 Silence I bid

Appendix 4.2 Tell me, Fjölsviðr

Appendix 4.3 A small sword will be ready

Appendix 4.4 The Æsir were assembled

Appendix 4.5 Óðin hurled

Appendix 4.6 She remembers the war

Appendix 4.7 Playing on the lawn

Appendix 4.8 Thence came maidens

Appendix 4.9 She saw Valkyries

Appendix 4.10 Various Parts of the Darraðarljóð

Appendix 4.11 She was called Heiði

Appendix 4.12 Gunnlöð gave me drink

Appendix 5. Stories

Appendix 5.1 Gnowee

Appendix 5.2 Baldr’s Death

Appendix 5.3 Meleager

Appendix 5.4 Germania

Appendix 5.5 Metis

Appendix 6. Miscellanious additions

Appendix 6.1 The Jötnar and Cosmology

Appendix 6.2 The Dvergar

Appendix 6.3 The Nordic Horn Ceremony

Appendix 6.4 Spinning and Weaving

Appendix 6.5 Burial Mounds

Appendix 6.6 The Oseberg Ship

Appendix 6.7 The Tree that Reached the Sky

Appendix 6.8 The Unity of Day and Night

Appendix 6.9 The Mandorla

Appendix 6.10 Geography Primer

Appendix 6.11 The Battle of the Darraðarljóð

Appendix 6.12 Our Cover Rune

Books and articles
Internet sources
List of Illustrations


Sharp points of light pierce the black velvet sky. High rocks glint in the brilliance of the full moon. Here and there, the saw-toothed edges of icy black clouds cut through and blot out the moonlight. A long, dark man-snake slithers slowly up the hill, guided by flickering torchlight. A continuous, unwavering droning noise rises from the procession, as if many voices were muttering something all at once. The drone grows to a chant, its pitch never varying. Near the centre of the line, a bier can be seen; on it, the supine figure of a woman. The shoulders of four men bear its poles.

The woman is dead, her skin pale and lifeless, her hair streaked with grey, her arms stretched out alongside her body, her neck encircled by a string of coloured beads, her breast strewn with flowers. Over her brick-red, ankle-length garments, their folds pinned by twin brooches, rests a blue mantle fastened with cords. The pall-bearers wear heavy, fur-edged coats; the woman has no need to keep warm.

The path winds upward to a terraced clearing on the hillside, at its centre, a shallow depression lined with large, unyielding rocks. The men deposit the bier so that the woman’s head points east and her feet west. At that moment, four additional men step forward from the four cardinal directions, halting at the edges of the hollow.

The interminable drone is now joined by a new sound – a high-pitched wail with a clear, sharp tone. A woman emerges from the crowd and, circling, sings her terrifying song. The voice gradually intensifies until it nearly drowns out the underlying chanting, then suddenly ceases, and the woman vanishes into the mass of waiting bodies.

The guardian of the East swings tree branches in an arc over the grave, then allows them to fall. The guardian of the South feeds the fire of a torch with his breath, then, plunging it toward the earth, snuffs it out. The guardian of the West pours water into the grave, casting the empty jug in after it. The jug is dashed to bits on the stones. The guardian of the North brings a round, flat plate covered in mounds of earth, which he scatters about.

A tall man, fully armed, his mantle edged with a wide band of fur, steps forward. The droning gives way to silence, and the man begins to speak. As he does so, the guardians raise the body and place it carefully on the left-hand side of the grave.

The woman of the high voice comes forward again, a tiny wooden box in her hand. Other women follow, each bearing some item or other to place, in succession, to the right of the corpse in the grave: the box, a wooden bucket filled with water, a folded coverlet, bird feathers, an iron rattle, seeds, two carved wooden staves, and a small drinking horn.

Upon the dead woman’s breast, they lay a knife; about her neck, a small leather pouch. A key is hung from the belt about her waist and a long, iron shaft with a decorative headpiece placed in her hand. Finally, one of the women in attendance covers the body with a measure of light cloth.

The tall man comes forth a second time, now accompanied by two others. One of them holds a hen in his arms, the other leads a dog. The man draws his sword and with a single stroke beheads both. Their blood steams in the cold night. The crowd is silent. The two men lay the animals in the trench, their blood-drenched bodies at the deceased’s feet, their heads in one corner.

Next to join the ritual is a group bearing a hefty rock, flat, but thick. They stand in tight formation at the edge of the grave. Raising his voice, the tall man issues a seeming command, and at that moment, the rock plummets down toward the body. A sound of cracking ribs fills the air.

A sigh escapes the crowd. The men lift another stone and bring it to the grave, this time letting it drop at the woman’s feet. As it reaches its destination, the stone tips, slides sideways, then comes to rest. Everyone watches, but no one moves to adjust its position.

The tall man gives a signal, and people scatter, only to return with new stones. At another signal, they cast the stones into the pit. Some make multiple trips. When the grave is full, the four guardians approach, each coming to rest at his own cardinal point. The silence thickens, within it, a feeling of relief. Those present cast a last glance at the stones that now seal the grave. Calmed, they proceed down the hillside. They are safe: the dead cannot return...

A.D. 896

Fragments least, that is one way it could have happened.

Each of the physical elements included in the above account derives directly from catalogued archaeological findings. The ceremony itself, though a work not of science, but of fiction, has been pieced together with the help of a few additional sources and a healthy dose of imagination.

True or not, one can surmise that it was no ordinary funeral. To posterity, the enormous stones used to crush and pin the body down beg the disturbing conclusion that the funerary crowd had no intention of leaving the deceased woman intact. Indeed, to people of former times, the idea that the dead might rise from the grave and return to haunt, exact vengeance on, or interfere in the matters of the living was a terrifying possibility. The deceased, it was thought, might have unfinished business on earth or have had such power and fortitude in life as to want to exercise those qualities after death.

The subject of our imagined burial might certainly have been a woman feared both in life, and afterward; and, just as a vampire can be kept from waking by piercing it through the heart with a silver dagger, the woman in our story may have been weighted down with stones as a similarly preventive measure.

In fact, archaeologists have unearthed multiple graves from the 8–11th centuries featuring beheaded corpses weighted down by stones, many having been laid to rest in unusual positions. (Illustration 1.)

Such deviant 1 burials have garnered considerable attention because of the value human cultures universally place on respect for both the dead, and their places of burial. The practice of mutilating corpses may have arisen from a desire either to punish the dead, or to protect the living from subsequent harassment, or perhaps even both. 2

1. A deviant burial

In the simplest terms, archaeologists have conventionally determined the sex of an individual associated with an excavated burial site by examining any grave goods the site might contain. Though some artefacts, such as scissors, knives, and sickles, are viewed as having potentially belonged to a person of either sex, where grave goods feature predominantly masculine objects – such as weapons or tools – the grave is determined to be that of a man. Similarly, where items such as brooches, beads, spindles, hemp combs, or spinning implements are found, the burial is established to be that of a woman. This is particularly the case where no actual human remains are found.

2. Women’s jewellery

Illustration 2 shows two brooches and their connecting chain, a shirt neck fastener, and two clothing rings. The brooches and chain are distinctive Scandinavian women’s clothing accessories that were used as seen in Illustration 3, which also shows how the shirt neck fastener was positioned. The use of jewellery of this type was so widespread, that where an excavated grave included two brooches in the region of the ribcage, the site was automatically identified as having belonged to a woman.

3. Reconstructed Old Norse woman’s outfit with brooches

Of course, this method has not always led to a correct identification. The development of new techniques in archaeology, and specifically of DNA testing, has resulted in a redetermination of sex for some grave occupants.

As it turns out, some graves containing brooches actually belonged to men, while some containing weapons, in fact, belonged to women. 3 In the Klinta and Gerdrup graves, for example, skeletons now positively identified as having belonged to women were found lying beside an axe, and a spear, respectively.

Archaeological excavations have also uncovered burials where the grave goods around a woman’s body included not only the usual day-to-day items – brooches, knives, grindstones, scissors, small bottles, jewellery, and kitchen implements – but, as in our imagined story, other things, as well.

The tiny leather pouch at the woman’s neck, the key on her belt, the seeds, the poultry feathers, and the carved wooden staves that featured in the description above all point to a person of special status.

The Oseberg ship Appendix 6.6 mound, 4 for example, yielded a leather pouch containing cannabis seeds, others 5 tiny sacks of seeds from the plant Hyoscycamus niger (henbane), 6 both species known for their hallucinogenic properties.

Of even clearer purpose is the iron staff, an emblem archaeologists increasingly concur was used in the practice of magic.

Multiple graves have produced examples of staves, 7 all similarly fashioned of iron and featuring a shaft of rectangular cross section, 40 cm to 1 m in length, a metallic headpiece or twisted metallic lattice, and a finial in the shape of a simple sphere or tiny animal head, house, chair, or human figure.

Some specimens also included rings – one to four in number – from which items that may have included textiles, plant parts, wooden rods, nuts, or other similar accessories were once likely hung.

The staff seen in Illustration 4 was taken from a grave in Sweden 8 containing the cremated remains of a woman along with an array of high-quality grave goods.

4. Broken staff

The piece was both broken, either intentionally or by accident, and bore signs of having been in a fire. Reconstructed, the staff would be 82 cm in length. The same site yielded several additional objects of bronze, copper alloy, silver, and iron, including a war axe, a key, a chain, a string of beads, brooches, and dishes. Originally, the staff may have resembled that shown in Illustration 5.

Another staff found in Sweden, 9 in this case in Gävle (Gefle), and currently residing in the National Museum of Denmark dates to around 900–1000. (Illustration 6.) This second staff measures 42.5 cm without the attached ring and ornament 10 and is decorated with animal head motifs at its lower end. The site was originally identified as having belonged to a man because of the sword and arrow head that featured – in addition to the staff – among the grave goods.

5. The reconstructed staff

Where no human remains are present, however, not only is it impossible to ascertain the sex of the deceased in such cases, but even the type of burial – cremation or inhumation – must necessarily remain unknown.

That it was not only the dead that filled the living with fear, however, is clear from the manner in which, at the four-person ship burial, 11 it was not a body, but the staff that had been weighted down with rocks.

6. Gävle staff

From our observations of the grave offerings detailed above, we can conclude with considerable confidence that the sites in question were intended as the final resting places not of men, but of high-ranking, uncommonly skilled women.

The staff or wand was an implement indicating special knowledge, which the woman had borne in hand in the manner of a king’s sceptre. In life, the deceased woman of our imaginary rites would have been not an ordinary woman, but a seeress. 12

Lady Sun

But who were these sorceresses, and why were they so important? What knowledge did they possess that they inspired such fear and awe, and where did it come from? What gave them the right to bring messages from the world of the unseen?

Because the way a culture orders the supernatural reflects the way it orders its own society, we might begin our investigation by examining who amongst the earliest beings of divine origin wielded the greatest powers.

7. Details of folio 20r of manuscript AM 544 4to

The following passage comes from one of the best-known works of Old Norse literature, a poem known as the Völuspá, which will be discussed in greater detail in chapters to come.

Sol varp sunnan

sinni maana

hendi inni hægri

of ioður 13

5. 14

The sun was in the south

with the Moon,

her right hand

the brim of the sky.

As the ancient Icelandic grammar makes clear, in Old Norse mythology, the Sun was female and the Moon male, as was the case with the Egyptians, for whom the sky was also personified as a goddess and the earth as a male god. 15 This point is important, as by contrast, the Sun – female in more than one language – has symbolised man/masculinity on the one hand and the intellect on the other for several thousand years now.

In the words of Hans Biedermann:

In male-dominated societies, the Sun is imagined as masculine, just as naive conceptualisations held the deity itself to be male; the only exception to this is the Japanese Sun Goddess Amaterasu Omikami, ruling deity of the Shinto pantheon. 16

Like the goddess herself, the meaning of the name Amaterasu Omikami is something quite beautiful: great kami (divinity or deity) who shines in the heavens. Her brother, god of the Moon, rules the night. 17

Though Biedermann describes this one case only, a look back at earlier times soon reveals others, such as the Hittite goddess Arinniti and Egyptian Sun Goddess Iusaaset, while numerous other goddesses – the Sami Beaivi, the Hindu Ushas, the Celtic Áine, and the Greek Athena, to name just a few – possess attributes connected to the dawn, daylight, warmth, and other concepts surrounding the Sun. 18

If some of these names sound unfamiliar, it should come as little surprise: though once powerful deities, revered for bringing light, warmth, and fertility and producing and maintaining such phenomena as the dawn, sunset, and seasons, today, their cults have all but disappeared. It would seem that the further back one goes, the more likely it is that one finds sun deities and indeed, a Sun itself, whose fundamental aspects are not male, but female.

The Australian aborigines, too, view the sun as feminine – a woman who rises each morning to bring light to the world. The following excerpt from an Australian myth describes how this particular culture envisioned the Sun’s pathway across the sky:

The sun-woman, Wuriupranili, and the moon-man, Japara travel at different times across the sky. Each carries a torch of flaming bark, but when they reach the western horizon they extinguish the flames and use the smouldering ends to light their way as they return eastwards through the darkness of the underground world.

Each morning, the fire lit by the sun-woman to prepare her torch of bark provides the first light of dawn. The clouds of sunrise are reddened by the dust from the powdered ochre 19 which she uses to decorate her body. It is then that the soft, melodious call of Tukumbini, the honey-eater, wakens the people to the duties of another day.

At sunset, Wuriupranili reaches the western horizon. But, before she returns by an underground passage to her camp in the east, she again decorates herself with red ochre, thus causing the brilliant colours of sunset. 20

The Australian example is notable in that the culture in question was isolated enough for its Sun goddess myth to preserve a key element that, as beliefs surrounding the Sun were radically transformed, has gradually disappeared in other parts of the world: specifically, that the goddess returned to the East via an underground passage. Appendix 5.1

From these myths it is apparent that the sun goddesses’ job had to do not only with light and the heavens, but also with darkness and the underworld; that her course across the heavens for the purpose of bringing light, heat, and fertility to the earth was mirrored by a similar arc through the depths of the dark world below. Thus, she traveled along a circular path, whose first half took place in daylight, and its second half in the blackness of night. As both halves were her territory, she was equally at home in each; and it is in these terms that the ancient entity embodied by Wuriupranili, Goddess of the Sun, unfolds before us: the sun goddess, queen of the day and night, the yet-undifferentiated primal archetype, 21 inspiration behind the world’s first cults. Appendix 6.8

Thus, in the beginning, day and night were both personified by a woman, a female goddess. Accompanying Wuriupranili, however, was a male figure – in the Australian myths the god of the Moon, Japara – who followed a similarly circular path that was not merely as complete as, but indeed, identical to his counterpart’s, though offset in time. Japara, too, carried a torch – albeit a smaller one – to illuminate his course through the heavens. Tellingly, however, both Sun and Moon have undergone radical transformation over the course of the centuries. By appropriating the concepts of light, warmth, and daytime and pairing them with all that is good and superior in value – e.g. with the powers of the mind – the companion Moon became the hero Sun, a god who gathered both sides of the world – day and night alike – under a single yoke.

At the same time, Lady Sun, who once stood for both light and dark, also changed, her attributes, representing two aspects, cleaved asunder to be borne instead by two different types of goddesses, the first relating to the Sun, daylight, fertility, and all that is warm, and the second reigning over darkness, the depths of the earth, death, and sorcery. Appearing concurrently with the sun goddesses, therefore, were the goddesses of the night, the underworld, and blackness, exemplified by Ishtar of Asia Minor and Nyx of ancient Greece.

The sorceress of our prologue – as was perhaps suggested – was not only respected, but also feared, much in the way the forces of darkness – powers the sorceress alone dared face – were objects of fear. This fearlessness on the part of the sorceress suggests that it was here, in the night mists and the figure of the Sun Goddess whose torch illuminated them, that her legitimacy – the roots of her knowledge – truly lay.

An apt illustration of the process of transformation in question comes in the figure of Hecate, a goddess associated with Hellenic culture who was responsible for overseeing not only the heavens and the earth, but also various passageways,

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