Magical Tradition: Norse

I've been working on a Norse "mythos" / magical tradition for quite a while now, and though very little of it is written down and properly worded I can at least share the few tidbits I've thus far managed to extract from my head and my research and my childhood school lectures. There's probably some kinks and errors here and there, as I'm mostly doing this from memory right now, but I hope it's more less passable nonetheless. And so, as the old adage goes, "In vain he waits not, who waits for something worthy".

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Basics

Historical Overview

The main problem with the Norse tradition and the reason it's grown so weak even in the lands of its origins is that it hasn't weathered the changes in society. While the Atlantean Orders may be eternal and rooted in Supernal symbolism the ministries and tactics of the Seers of the Throne are not, and they change and mutate as circumstances demand. A thousand or so years ago there weren't even any "ministries" as we understand the term, as even that's a fairly recent invention of the Hegemonic Ministry itself.

The Norse world had a noted lack of any sort of ever-present government or bureaucracy which controlled the daily life of the populace, and so the servants of the Exarchs couldn't use the same tactics of corruption and pulling strings as they do today. The process of turning our own civilizations and political structures against us and using them as tools of enslavement hadn't really happened yet, and so the Seers of the day tried to oppose the progress of human enlightenment with a different weapon: Chaos.

In order to make sure mankind wouldn't unite or find truth these early Seers, then called "Jotnar" or "Jotuns", would work to spread lawlessness, violence, mistrust and a return to barbarity instead. Some merely raided settlements they saw as threateningly advanced, burning and killing and pillaging, causing many of the later stories of monsters, vicious trolls, and especially the Wild Hunt.

But the more cunning of them would try and poison the social structure itself, manipulating the populace into abandoning the traditions and principles that made them strong and united. Theft, lies, betrayal, murder, greed, envy, all sorts of sins and corrosive habits endorsed, often by using their own mastery of illusions and mental magic to fool the unprepared mortals. Tearing down their laws, traditions, beliefs, homes, and teachings, trying to unmake anything the population had accomplished thus far.

Local mages of the Atlantean traditions opposed them, of course, as they have always done, and today most scholars point to the endless sagas and poems about how the Gods, the Æsir, continually fought the Jotun menace as the written records of that struggle. Thor would swing his hammer and crush the skulls of those who attacked human dwellings, Odin would walk among villages to spread wise teachings, Tyr would plan tactical defenses, and Balder would inspire loyalty, brotherhood and staying true to your ideals. And for many an age this continued, with the Norse tradition being a firm foundation for how to resist and survive the opposition of the Exarch-followers, allowing the northern cultures to flourish and progress.

Here is where the aforementioned inability to change becomes their downfall, for with the sleeper civilization growing and becoming more complex and urbane the Seers changed with it. With each generation fewer and fewer of them thought it did any good to try and tear down the society, and soon a new approach grew forth: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. They began bolstering the existing processes, pushing for more urbanization, more industrialization, more bureaucracy, more of anything that would lead to a more exploitable and oppressive system.

And exploit they did, slowly but surely becoming the sort of Seers we know today, who keep the Lie strong by keeping everyone locked inside routines, prohibitions, social pressure, indoctrination, and so on. The Norse tradition, however, is too established and traditional to adjust to this. It's still focused on battling Jotuns and external monsters, often with physical violence being the solution, having no answer on how to deal with corrupt politicians or hidden conspiracies in control of multinational corporations. Today, this is interpreted to be the "Fimbullwinter" foreseen in ancient days, the time where human hearts grow cold, when loyalty, integrity and brotherhood rots away. The winter of the human soul.

In the end the Norse tradition found itself losing adherents, though never dying out completely. Its rotes, techniques, wise counsel, cosmology and teachings still hold power, can still be useful, but it's no longer as ubiquitous as it once was, and many who make use of it only do so for pragmatic reasons, paying lip-service to the ideals at best. It is still an incredibly vital and still-living Tradition, with surprising amount of depth and complexity, not to mention respectability in the awakened community both Scandinavian and far away. As such it's in no risk of dying out anytime soon, and all sorts of mages near and far still keep on learning it.

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Æsir, the true Gods

Inherited Names

Supernal or Fallen World?

Odin, King of Gods and God of Kings
Most who come to Åsatru after they've finished their magely training immediately know to which Path and Order he belongs. Almost invariably this turns out to be the same as that of the student, and many a time arguments have broken out over this matter. The mages whose training is based on this mythos finds this all rather silly, for according to them Odin transcends such things.

He caused the five paths to be made, he was a leader, a scholar, a warrior and a liar. He commanded the dead, he could turn into animals, he could shape the events of history, and his vision could reach any place in any world. He wore a concealing hat and cloak to go disguised among the people, he sacrificed his eye to gain knowledge, he led the gods in warfare and he presided over their council-sessions.

He showed the powers and qualities of all the groups of mages known in the northern world, and so served well as the rallying point which all the different mages and factions could gather around. No one order or path could claim to be superior to the others, for Odin presides over all equally.

Atlantean interpretation: Clearly this mirrors our own attitude to the Oracles themselves: That they were kings and queens of the Ocean Spire, and belonged to none of the paths or orders we know today. The sole difference is that instead of revering five such figures the Norse focused on one.

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"Better burden will you never bear
than wealth of world's wisdom"


- Håvamål

Terminology

The Paths

Orthodox Norse Path
Enchanter Vólve (predominantly f), Spåmann (m), Spåkone (f) Acanthus
Necromancer Valdermann (m) / Vitkar (m), Vitkone (f) Moros
Shaman Seiðkone (f, majority), Seiðkar (m, minority) Thyrsus
Theurge Thurl Obrimos
Warlock Gandrer Mastigos

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Åsenes Ætter - The Orders

Norse name Ætt Orthodox name
Mjøllner, Torshammeren Torsætt and/or Tyrsætt Adamantine Arrow
Miðgarðsvokterne Lokasætt and/or Heimdallsætt Guardians of the Veil
Bifrostbyggerne Baldersætt and/or Friggsdøtre Silver Ladder
Runesteinr, Futharkr Bragisøtt and/or Kvasirsætt The Mysterium

When the Free Council much, much later showed up it was eventually interpreted to be Idunnsætt, the household of Idunn, goddess of youth.

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Mages

  • Mage - Magiker
  • Mystagogue - Erilaz
  • Théarch - Lagmann
  • Arrow - Hirdmann; the Arrows - The Hird
  • Guardian - Niðing; the Guardians - The Gestir
  • Left-Handed mages - Trollmann (m), Toll-kone/kvinne (f)
  • Seer - Jotun (but see also under 'creatures' below)

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The World

Åsgard - Translated alternately to "the supernal" or "Atlantis" when outsiders try to fit the mythos into their own expectations and preconceived notions. A norse mage might simply answer "Yes" when asked which is the right one

Miðgarðr- The Gauntlet/Astral Barrier/Any given dimensional barrier. The powerful and gigantic fence or barrier the gods placed between the world of Men (Mannheim) and the domains of chaos which lie outside. But it also came to mean the area this fortification contained, as the word technically refers to the courtyard enclosed by such a palisade, and so is also used when talking about the material world or other readily accessible and non-hostile dimensions.

Utgarð: That which lies outside; anything beyond the material world, by other mages more commonly known as "The Realms Invisible". Includes both the Hisil, Inferno, the Hedge and anything else that's "outside" their ordered and understandable everyday world, or where there's supernatural creatures one needs to watch out for.

Helheim - The Underworld. Believed to be the region of Niflheim directly ruled by Hel and inhavited by her inglorious dead, and so it's often called Niflhel. This is where her hall Éljúðnir supposedly lies.

Ginnungagap - The Abyss; also the empty void before the world was made, from which the Abyss grew forth. Sometimes used poetically to describe other empty voids or spaces.

Mimisbrunnir - The Omphalos, known to norse wizards as the Well of Mimir, which grants Knowledge. Protected by the severed yet magically reanimated head of Mimir. Lies at one of the three great roots of the World Tree, which is how the Axis Mundi tends to look when these mages visit it. The Typhonides are Nidhogg-spawn.

Fimbullwinter - The modern world / The Fall of Atlantis / The Quiessent Curse / Reason for the the Fallen World

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Creatures and Beings

  • Vette - Nature-spirit of forest and wilderness
  • Sjøvettir - Nature-spirits of the sea, often guard specific waters
  • Nisse - Urban / Civilization-related spirit, often tied to specific farmstead or dwelling
  • Troll - Nature-spirits of mountainous terrain and/or stone
  • Vårde - Guardian spirit or twilight familiar
  • Fylgje - Embodied Familiar
  • Hamingja - Spirit of a family or lineage, usually have a fate or luck-based Influence.
  • Jotun - Seer of the Throne and/or any creature similarly deemed outside the natural order of things or devoted to chaos and destruction, such as Magath or demons.

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The Mythos

Outside Perspective

the problem other mages often have when trying to understand the Norse tradition is that even though many things are direct analogues to their own beliefs, many events and symbols and concepts seem to be nothing but local translations of the same underlying truth, there are also irreconcilable differences. The story of the world doesn't match up, there seems to be things that simply aren't as the outsiders believe them to be. And so many who catalogue and analyze it label these aspects of the Norse tradition as «wrong» or «incorrect», often not even considering that they themselves could be in the wrong, not for one moment thinking that the ancient miracle workers of the north might have known something we don't.

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Mythic History

In the Beginning
In the beginning there was only the complete and utter void, the vast emptiness of Ginnungagap reaching between the fire of Muspellheim and the freezing cold of Niflheim. But the heat of Muspell met the cold of Nifl, and it melted the ice, caused water and icicles and condensation. While the cold of Nifl met the flames and cooled them, making steam and fog. In Ginnungagap this happened, and so it was there that all these things combined to form Ymir, the first giant and primordial man. And out of his body were made Jotuns, who soon swarmed over his body and inhabited it. They were crude and barbaric and monstrous, filthy and horrible, like animals. And Ymir slept.

Then the gods appeared. The story says that Ymir fed off the milk of Audhumla, his cow, who had been made along with him. And like all cows she enjoyed salt, and by licking one of the salty blocks of ice she caused the first god to emerged from that stone.

Author's Notes: Yes. The norse believed their gods had their first origin in a cow licking a lump of ice. Now, the Mystagogues would be quick to point out that their first serious initiation revolves around the sacrifice of a cow or ox, seeing this as the beginning of the atlantean mystery of magic. And the Théarchs would be just as quick to remind their fellow mages that the Atlantis-orthodoxy claims that the first awakenings happened because the first barbaric humans meditated within caves filled with unique crystalline stones called «dragon bones». And so they'd say this is merely how one culture remembers and retells the story of the wild men who found magic in the rocks, becoming the first gods. Norse mages would perhaps shrug their shoulders, comment that it's what the gods who lived through that period told them happened, and continue with their daily work.

The Deluge
The first god, Buri, lived on Ymir with the jotuns, and had children with them, and so more gods came into being. None can know how long that age lasted, but soon the gods grew afraid, for the Jotuns were heedless and careless. They bred without restraint or reason, they gave no though to their environment or whether it could support them all. Living only for their pleasures and doing whatever they will the gods saw that catastrophe would result if nothing was done to stop this lawless corruption that had infested their world.

And so Odin, son of Borr, grandsom of Buri, brother of Vili and Ve, led his brethren in the murder and sacrifice of Ymir, killing the primordial man and ending that age of the world. His blood caused such a deluge that all the Jotuns were washed away into the void and perished, save for two. But the gods survived, and from Ymir's body did they create a new world: His flesh became the ground, his scull-cap the sky, his thoughts the clouds, his blood the oceans and rivers, his bones the mountains and stones, and his eyes they threw into the sky to become sun and moon.

Atlantean Interpretation: we see here Buri as the first person on atlantis to awaken, and how he taught others among the common people (Jotuns) to do the same, and become «gods» as he was. But unlike the classical tale there is no civil was between mages, no celestial ladder, no Exarchs. There is only the mages realizing their civilization has grown corrupt, and how they make the ultimate sacrifice in destroying their home world in order to fashion a better one.

It's also possible this represents the old primordial demon-gods that enslaved and terrorized humanity before humans found Awakening, and that this is how the norse remember the mages taming the world, killing the titans of old to give humanity a new and safer world in which to live. Some might claim that it's both, that norse sages got them mixes up. Hubris, we see then, never dies

The New World
In the center they made Åsgard, which is the «Couryard of the Æsir», and there they built their homes. Beyond this was a less glorious land, and here the first humans settled and made their own kingdoms in due time, and it was called Mannheim, which is «Home of Men». But the gods also realized that the Jotun-pair that had survived had begotten a new race of Jotuns, and the barren wasteland they infested was called Jotunheim, «home of giants».

In their wisdom the gods therefore took the eyelashes and eyebrows of Ymir and placed them as a fence between Mannheim and Jotunheim, a great wall to protect the ordered world they had constructed and keep the monsters from invading en masse. This barrier they called Midtgard, and according to the custom this name then also came to apply to the realms it protected, and so Midtgard became a way to refer to the realms in which gods and men walked. Everything beyond was Utgard, the wastelands of chaos.

Atlantean interpretation: This is «obviously» the separation of worlds which happened during the Fall of Atlantis, where the Supernal and Fallen drew apart from each other, where the Spirit World and Material were divided by the Gauntlet, and how the Astral Barrier blocks meditation from passing it except in a Demesne or at the strongest of Hallows. Åsgard here is the memory of Atlantis, or possibly the Supernal itself, while mortal humans are now protected from the supernatural dangers of the world.

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De Ni Heimer: The Arcana

There are nine worlds. Nine Homes, nine Halls, and they all hang from the branches of Yggdrasil the World Tree, or are anchored to its mighty trunk. Each of these Homes, or worlds, is dramatically different. Each of them is needed to have a complete cosmos, and each of them has its own native inhabitants and strange traits.

But Yggdrasil is not counted among The Nine Homes, for it is the connection between them, which supports them and gives position, direction, connections and separations between all known worlds. Yet men do often not visit there save during their awakenings and their vision-journeys, for they are not places their living bodies can survive in.

And so in the end there are ten aspects, ten parts of the cosmos, one for each Home and a final one for the Tree which holds them:

  1. Death - Niflheim: The world of ice and frost, of cold mists and dreary darkness, where the dead go to linger forever
  2. Forces - Muspelheim: The world of fire and flame, or heat and light, which burns forever.
  3. Life - Mannheim: The world of Men, what foolish people call the "real world", where animals and birds and people about, and where the race of man was placed to live his life.
  4. Matter - Nidavellir: The stern and cavernous realm of the Dwarves, the mines and forges, where raw material is reforged into mighty works of craft and gems lie strewn around like gravel. As they come from the maggots feeding upon the flesh of the world-giant's corpse the Dwarves are intrinsically linked to the process of death and transformations.
  5. Mind - Jotunheim: The blasted, wild, untamed lands of the Jotuns, the home of lies, deceit and corruption, only held at bay by the Honor and Integrity of man and his Æsir
  6. Prime - Åsgard: The home of the gods, the core of creation where the Æsir built their homes and palaces, with roofs of gold and glory unending. Here is no death, only power.
  7. Spirit - Vanaheim: The home of the Vanir and the Vettir, the spirits of tree and brook and meadow, but also of field and farm. It is where the mystical Seid-magic was made, and where everything has life and soul.
  8. Fate - Alfheim: This place is known through naught but legends, but those state that it is where the Ljos-Alfar, or light-elves, reside, and possibly the Disir as well. It is west of the sun and east of the moon, behind the seven hills and is the land under wave. Some claim the Ljos-Alfar do not build homes as we know them, however, and state that their world is naught but a wild forest of winding paths where any choice can lead to riches or ruin.
  9. Time - Svartalfheim: The twin or reflection of Alfheim and sharing in much of its unknown nature, though many suspect it is one of the underground realms (together with Nidavellir and Niflheim), and here dwell the Dokk-Alfar, or dark-elves, who cannot be gainsaid and who tell no stories but your demise.
  10. Space - Yggdrasil: The World Tree, the Axis Mundi, the World Ash, where an eagle nests at its top and a serpent chews at its roots, while a squirrel runs between to carry messages and insults. In this manner does it stretch from top to bottom of all there is. In its branches are four stags eating of its leaves, one for each of the cardinal directions, and thus does it determine and govern position and the locations of all things.

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De Fem Haller: The Five Watchtowers, the Paths

Now, divided into these nine homes is how the world came to be shaped, but in times of old the gods did tame those far reaches and alien worlds, bending them to their will. They erected their Halls, five in number, from which they could not only draw upon the powers of the Nine Homes but also teach this art to those mortal men and women who chanced upon their doorstep. In this way do the norsefolk learn their spells and prayers, their wonders and their miracles, becoming magicians in truth. These Five Halls are as follows:

Éljúðnir - The Watchtower of the Lead Coin
When the time came to be that the world suddenly needed to be put into order and stability did Odin seize Hel the Half-Dead, daughter of Loki, and throw her into Niflheim. That realm he granted to her sole dominion over, to build her Hall (Éljúðnir) and to be queen and goddess of the dead. But this was also his curse, for she can never leave that place, and in return jealously keeps all she can seize for herself. But as their world stems from the corpse of Ymir, and they are but the things created by his demise, the home of Nidavellir is also under her command.

Folkvang - The Watchtower of the Stone Book
The hall of Frøya, goddess of love and sister of fertility, daughter of Njord the Ocean and mistress of the female magics. Only those willing to accept the gifts of love and lust, joy and sorrow, and the unbridled and visceral truth of life and the natural world can open her doors. She keeps two cats large enough to pull her chariot, and one half of the noble dead are given to her by Odin, for her passion and her beauty conquers all. Though her home lies in Vanaheim she also oversees anything alive within Mannheim, for the nature and being of all living things are her secrets, and she holds the mastery of shapeshifting.

Hlidskialf - The Watchtower of the Iron Gauntlet
More powerful than all other gods is Odin, and from his Throne atop his tower of Hlidskialf his commands can make all things obey him. From this vantage point he can see anything, no matter how distant or how in what world it may be hiding. Alone he travels into Jotunheim, and though they do not obey him as their king they bend to his will, for as All-Father he is more clever and guileful even than them. He hung for nine days from Yggdrasil, one day for each world, and so all passages and roads are known and owned by him. And should they want it, human visitors may carve their name into his throne of command, if they are strong enough.

Urðabrunnir - The Watchtower of the Lunargent Thorn
Though they are not counted among the Æsir the three Norns (Urð, Verðandi and Skuld) still assist with the ordering and shaping of the world. They live at Urðabrunnir, or Urð's Well, where they spin the life's thread of all things that live and die, weave it as they see fit, and cut it when it is time for that life to end. They are goddesses of what was, what is and what will be, and though none know for sure it is believed their influence extends over Alfheim and Svartalfheim, though no lore found among sleepers speak of such things. Whispers claim that this is because the Norns wish it to be so, and advise others to let the matter lie.

Valhall - The Watchtower of the Golden Key
The abode of the gods and of the valiant who have been found worthy in death, the citadel which dwarfs all other cities, where the sun and moon comes to rest and where divine power and reality-shaping magics suffuse the very air. Here food and drink spring eternal, here death and decay will not exist, and though the rest of the gods have their personal estates in other reaches of Åsgard this is where that Home is governed and controlled. This is also the place for councils and warfare, and where the Æsir made those enchantments and bindings which keeps Muspellheim from burning all the world, and from where they can control its might.

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The World Tree

On the plain of Idavoll there is a tree, and its name is Yggdrasil. In its branches nests the nine worlds, and yet its trunk rests upon the soil of those selfsame worlds. Mystics studying the magics of Space claim this makes perfect sense, though others may not agree too much. The fact remains that the world-tree is known to have three great roots, three bases of its foundation in three different worlds, and each of them drinks from a magical fountain. One root is found in Åsgard, where the Norns feed it water from Urd's Well. One root is found in Jotunheim, the homeworld built on top of the Void, where it enters Mimir's Well. Its waters are Knowledge, and the head of Mimir still guards it against the unworthy. Even Odin, the all-high, had to give one of his eyes to drink from it freely, and some claim to have seen it looking back at them from the deeps of the well. And deep in Helheim the third root delves, into the poisoned pool that is the wellspring of the river Hvergelmir, where the vile serpent Nidhoog lairs. There he gnaws on the root, eternally seeking to kill the tree and topple it.

Atlantean Interpretation: Now this is where it gets interesting, for it's widely known that in the astral realm (oft identified with Jotunheim, Home of the Mind Arcanum) we find the Axis Mundi, bridging the worlds, and a great many cultures do indeed see it as a great tree. And it is really beset with oily serpents born of Death that seek to destroy it, named Typhonides in many grimoires. The Underworld does have a river of icy cold, to which the name Hvergelmir has been applied since the ancient times. Can it be that there is a link between the astral and the underworld, some place where they cross over, possibly connected to the Aeon Typhon?

At the place where the Temenos meets the axis is found the Omphalos, the astral domain representing High Speech, the language that through knowledge allows mages to command the universe. Rumours have it that deep in the Omphalos is the Deathhead, guarding the fount of all Knowledge and requiring sacrifice before letting supplicants access, which could fit eerily well with the story of Mimir's Well indeed.

Is any of this true? Who knows. But in the world of the awakened one should keep an open mind.

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The Enemy

It is said that Jotunheim exists now where Ginnungagap once was, though no tale explains how this came to be, and this is supposedly why that place is home to wickedness. Now we come to the parts of the mythos which is not found in sleeper teachings, for it is told among mages only: The void is still there, and though it is empty there are things living there still. The primeval Jotuns, the uncounted hordes of abberations and monsters that came into being before the world becamce civil and ordered were washed into the void. They were drowned and exiled beyond life and death, beyond heat and cold, light and darkness. There also is anything left over from the corpse of Ymir, anything corrupt or vile or sick that was not seen fit to be part of the world to come. All things bad.

There they dwell still, having grown to hate and loathe the gods who murdered them, the world they had to die for, and the race of man who thrives in the place they once called their own. They are from before this world came to be, they are outside the order and system the gods put into place, and they are not of the living nor the dead, not of flesh nor spirit nor thought. They are of the Ginnungagap, the abyss, and their sole desire is to tear down and destroy utterly the entirety of creation and have it join them in their torment. They even despise those Jotuns who survived and live today, envious of their fortune and furious at their failure to oppose the gods. They are Ymir's spawn, and nothing born of the Yggdrasil nor the nine worlds is safe from their eternal hatred.

Every time a mage casts a spell he draws upon the power of the gods, and in so doing he draws the attention of the Ymirspawn. The gods and the primeval jotuns share both blood and origins, and this kinship cannot be denied completely. From beyond this world do they seek to pervert every miracle, and if a mage is not thoughtful, prudent, skilled and righteous they can influence his spells and twist them towards their own ends. Odin and his two brothers breathed life and soul into the first man and woman, and along with that breath came a fragment of the Ymir-nature those gods carried, being born from the union of Ymirspawn and true Gods. And so every man and woman today has a sliver of Ymir's breath in his lungs, his heart and his eyes, and through this can the beasts of Ginnungagap find the miracles made by men, and consume them. Drawing the divine energy into the void they annul anything and everything wrough with godly help, aiming to steal that power away and with it unmake everything. And hence all magic, especially when unwisely used, can go horribly wrong.

Praxis - Performing Norse magic

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