Ellen Lloyd - AncientPages.com - A Völva in Norse mythology was someone everyone feared, even the gods. She was a very powerful female shaman and seer, but was she only a mythological figure, or is there any proof of her existence?
Sometimes very unusual archaeological finds are made and they give us reason to ponder whether some of our ancestors’ stories are not based on actual events.
A Völva in Norse mythology predicted the future.
A very mysterious grave was discovered in Denmark. What is especially interesting about this particular discovery is that it seems this was the resting place of a Völva. Several puzzling ancient artifacts were found in the tomb that indicates whoever was buried here was by no means an ordinary person.
Reconstruction of Fyrkat Viking fortress.
While excavating near the Fyrkat Viking fortress, archaeologists found about 30 Viking Age graves, but one was more unusual.
A Viking Age Woman Who Held High Status
Inside the tomb, scientists found a woman dressed in fine blue and red clothes adorned with gold thread. Her clothes showed she was of great importance and most likely held had royal status. She was buried, like the richest women, in the body of a horse-drawn carriage. She had been given ordinary female gifts, like spindle whorls and scissors.
The buried seeress from Fyrkat – reconstruction drawing by Thomas Hjejle Bredsdorff. Image credit: National Museum of Denmark
The grave contained exotic goods from foreign countries, something only rich people could afford at the time. Her toe rings were made of silver, which have not been found elsewhere in Scandinavia. Among her burial goods were also two bronze bowls, which may have come all the way from Central Asia.
Left: A mysterious small cup, which the woman from Fyrkat also had with her in the grave. Its function is not known, but it may have been a small drinking cup. Right: Bronze cup, possibly originating from Central Asia. It had a grass cover and contained a fatty substance. Image credit: National Museum of Denmark
Unusual Metal Wand And Poisonous Plants
It would be easy to say this was “only” a rich Viking woman, but there were some objects inside the grave that suggest she was a Norse shaman.
A so-called box brooch from Gotland was also present in the grave. The völva apparently re-used the hollow brooch as a container for “white lead”. White lead is a white dye, which for more than 2000 years has been used in medicine - in skin ointments, for example. It is poisonous in its concentrated form. Image credit: National Museum of Denmark
Scientists discovered an intriguing metal wand and seeds from the poisonous henbane plant inside her tomb.
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These two particular accessories are associated with a Norse shaman because the name Völva (vǫlva) is Old Norse and means “wand carrier” or “carrier of a magic staff”. In Norse Sagas, a Völva is often described as an old woman who appears late at night. She is dressed in a dark foot-length cloak and in her hand she holds a magical staff.
The Viking seeress’s cooking spit. The spit was already slightly bent when it was placed in the burial. Image credit: National Museum of Denmark
The metal wand found in the grave had disintegrated after all those years, but experts could determine it was an iron stick with bronze fittings.
Inside a small purse, there were henbane seeds. During the Viking Age, such seeds were thrown by shamans into a fire because the plants were known to produce a mildly hallucinogenic smoke and euphoric states.
Henbane was often used by the witches of later periods. It could be used as a “witch’s salve” to produce a psychedelic effect if the magic practitioners rubbed it into their skin.
Why was the woman buried with such plants unless she used them?
In her belt buckle was white lead, which was sometimes used as an ingredient in skin ointment.
Scientists also discovered other mysterious artifacts that support the theory the woman inside the Fyrkat grave was in fact a Völva.
At her feet was a box containing various items, such as owl pellets, and small bird and mammal bones. Apart from these, there was a silver amulet shaped like a chair – the seid or magic chair?
We may never know the woman’s identity, but her burial goods show she was not a Viking warrior, but rather a Völva. Her Poisonous plants could have been used prior to an important battle, to give Viking warriors strength and courage. A Völva was a very respected woman and warriors often visited her before going into battle.
This is without a doubt a fascinating archaeological discovery that gives a unique glimpse into our ancestor’s beliefs and shows some Norse myths were certainly based on true events and people.
Written by Ellen Lloyd – AncientPages.com
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