The Feared and Respected Old Norse Völva Sorceresses

Thorbjörg Lítilvölva from the Saga of Erik he Red displayed in the Saga Museum in Reykjavik. (Photo:

In the Viking Age, the völvas were both feared and respected: they exercised seiðr and were in direct contact with Odin, the Allfather. The word völva derives from the Old Norse vǫlva meaning “wand carrier”, a traveling sorceress and seeress who got well paid for her services.

A number of women’s graves found in Scandinavia probably contain a völva’s wand. The graves are often well equipped and rich, and show that these women had magical powers.

The völvas were the foremost religious interpreters in the Norse society. The most famous example of a völva’s prediction is the Eddic poem Völuspá (Old Norse: Vǫluspá, meaning ”Prophecy of the Völva”). The poem tells the story of the creation of the world until its coming end Ragnarök (“The Doom of the Gods”), told by…

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