Monday, 26 June 2017

Seidh

"'We always have a seidh session at Yule - it's a good time for divination...'"
-SM Stirling, The Sword Of The Lady (New York, 2009), Chapter Sixteen, p. 482.

The kind of Scandinavian magic called seid was regarded as unwholesome in Poul Anderson's Mother Of Kings (see here) but is respectable in the Norrheim of Stirling's Emberverse and maybe the divinations will shed some light on what is going down with all these suddenly active gods?

8 comments:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I have sympathy for those pagan Norse who regarded "seidh" and other kinds of magic, such as divination, with distaste and dislike. The Catholic Church condemns divination as superstition and a dangerous trafficking with diabolical entities unfriendly to mankind.

As Fr. John Hardon wrote on page 112 of his POCKET CATHOLIC DICTINARY (Image/Doubleday, 1980, 1985): "DIVINATTION. The art of knowing and declaring future events or hidden things by means of communication with occult forces. It is always an act of a religious nature. There is no divination if the religious element is missing, as in any scientific investigation. The occult forces in divination are always created rational powers that the Church identifies as diabolical. Implicit in this judgment is the belief that neither God nor the spiritual powers friendly to God would lend themselves to frivolous practices or subject themselves to any evoking human force. Hence, evoking these powers, whether explicitly, or even implicitly, is considered an appeal to Satan's aid. It is therefore a grave offence against God to attribute to the devil a sure knowledge of the contingent future, which, as depending on free will, is known to God alone."

Sean

S.M. Stirling said...

In Norse religion, Odin was always an ambiguous figure -- and his role as patron of magic was something that men were sharply divided on. Poul brings this out well in his "War of the Gods".

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

I agree! Odin is an ambiguous, even sometimes a treacherous person. As we see in other works of Anderson such as THE BROKEN SWORD and HROLF KRAKI'S SAGA. Quite frankly, I would not trust Odin one little bit!

Sean

S.M. Stirling said...

Odin's purposes are not always those of his followers. For one thing, he's stockpiling heroes for Ragnarok. The old Norse had a fundamentally rather bleak view of human existence.

And of course, Odin was preeminently the God of kings and warlords and professional fighters, the wolf-God to whom they gave human sacrifices. Thor, who guarded humankind from ettins and giants, was probably more widely worshipped.

Paul Shackley said...

I read in a Hindu shop in Leicester that Krishna has a place in the heart of the masses: gods by proclamation!

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

Yes, Scandinavian paganism was a rather grim and bleak religion. And I knew of Odin's purposes not always being those of his followers. And of course the matter of human sacrifices goes a line too far!

Thor might have been a less unpleasant "god" than Odin, but he was still rather oafish, even loutish.

Sean

S.M. Stirling said...

Thor was the God of the bondar, the yeoman-farmer class, and shared their characteristics as the Scandinavians of the time viewed them -- boorish and straightforward to the point of being a bit thick, but strong and hearty. Odin was patron of the higher arts like skaldic poetry, which was enormously sophisticated.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

Iow, Thor was peasant god and reflected the virtues and vices alike of Norse peasants. And Odin as the patron of skaldic arts would naturally be more sophisticated than Thor.

Sean