Galdr vs. Seiðr

Galdr (pronounced: GALd-r) “Incantations”. The intoning and singing of rún sounds or chants, and the use of Rúnar in spiritual practice in general. In opposition to the Seiðr, this is the holy art of the Goðin.

Seiðr (pronounced: SAYTH-r) “Sorcery”. The black art, founded by Gullveig. It is characterized by mind control, poisoning, conjuration, and necromancy. It was banned by the Goðin after the Folkvíg, declared to be harmful to our folk, and blasphemous to our faith.

— from The Ásatrú Edda,  by the Norroena Society

For a long time I was experiencing some confusion regarding the terms and definitions of the magical and spiritual arts, as well as their practitioners. It seems that there is some misconception amongst heathens as to the natures of Galdr and Seiðr, the common belief being that Galdr represents the male or masculine art of rune magic and Seiðr being the feminine branch of magic. But my sources say something entirely different, as you will see from the above definitions I borrowed from my copy of the Edda.

It is correct that Rúnar and Galdr were first learned by Odin, but Seiðr was taught to Freya by the Jötun Gullveig, who was its founder. True, Gullveig was female, but that does not mean that her form of magic is strictly the feminine art. 

According to the lore, Gullveig, who had been fostered in Ásgarðr as a hostage from Jötunheimr, developed Seiðr for the purpose of bring the forces of chaos to Miðgarðr. Her father longed to ravage the land of men, and she went to him to tell of her plan to incite a war in the world, which would cause Odin and the Goðin to suffer. She would spew so much poison upon men and beasts that they would die, she would “kill their souls”, torment the waters, plants, Heimdallr’s fire, and all of creation. By her Seiðr, one could know the predestined fate of men; bring death, ill luck, and disease to the people, and take the strength from one person to give to another. After such sorcery, one is afflicted with great weakness and anxiety, and so it was not thought respectable for men to practice it. Afterwards, only wicked women were brought up in the art, though I would guess there might have been exceptions.

It was she who invoked whatever evil slept in the hearts of the earthly beings. 
Why is this relevant to my book? you may be wondering. It is important to me to make the appropriate distinctions to the form of magic being practiced by characters in the story, as well as their role. I’ll be going through the chapters I’ve already written in order to correct any mistakes, but also I will use my deepening understanding of these arts to write a more convincing story, in which magic plays a more active role.

Published by Jessica Urquhart

First off, who am I? My name is Jessica Urquhart. Writing has always been a hobby of mine, which got its start in middle and highschool, when I'd write short stories for the amusement of my friends and classmates. Currently, I'm working on my first book, my one true love of a story I've been saying I would one day write. Well, that day has come. If you'd care to follow my musings on the adventures and hurdles of writing my first fantasy book, then please, read my blog.

8 thoughts on “Galdr vs. Seiðr

    1. Thanks! Though, certainly, not everyone’s cup of tea. I do bore my husband to no end with this kind of talk! Haha! My friends and family just think I am beyond strange, and mostly ignore me. With any luck, maybe I’ll find people on here who actually take a mutual interest in this subject. 😉

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  1. Your interpretations of many concepts on this article are weird and loaded with stuff that i have never come across before in relation to subject. I have no problem with new age but you should state where these ideas come from people already have enough misconceptions about the sagas, myths & norse.

    1. Golveig & Freija are both names of the same vanir they are not different beings only aspects of each other.
    2. There are no concepts of blasphemy attested by any scholar of norse religion nor is anything like that mentioned in the source materials (eddas)
    3. Seidr is not good or bad it depends on the intention. Galdr can be and often was part of Seidr practices

    The source you mentioned (norroena society) is not a good source on authentic norse practices. I recommend Dr.Crawford if you dont know any Skandinavian language.

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    1. I picked up the Ásatrú Edda by the Norroena society based on many recommendations. I have other translations, too of course, and am open to reading a variety of versions, so I will definitely look up the one you recommend. Just to be clear, I’m not at all into new age anything. As for the concepts I’ve mentioned, my explanations are based on what I have read in the Eddas. It’s impossible for me to know every translation or void for their authenticity. It’s not as though I claim to be an expert. I’ve never seen any source that portrays Gulveig as being the same entity as Freya, though.

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