"If I see witches riding through the air
I do something to make them lose their way
And they never find they own skin again
And they never find their own spirit again." -Odin; the Poetic Edda
" Vervain and Dill
Hinder witches from their will."
"Black-luggie, lammer bead,
Rowan-tree and reed thread,
Put the witches to their speed."
"Rowan-ash and reed thread
Keep the devils from their speed,"
Assuming that you, visitor, are well acquainted with folklore and myths surrounding Witchcraft, I’m positive that somewhere along your travels into the world of Witchery you’ve encountered the above charms and spells to deter witches; many being found in pagan traditions themselves. They do make one curious about their origins and motives, and most pagan and witch-folk cannot excuse or overlook them considering how often they appear in herblore and the like. The true answer to these perplexing riddles is a multi-faceted, complex and most surely riveting one that will change the way you think of and see Witches from here on out.
Many neo-pagans who fancy themselves "experts" on Witchcraft disregard and even deny that Witches ever flew from their bodies (many even going to the extent of saying that Witches’ Familiars are nothing but Christian propaganda), instead claiming that they were the idle imaginations of Witch hunters and the Church. Nothing can be further from the truth, as we can glean much vital information about medieval Witch cults and beliefs from the documents of various Witch trials.
Before we get to the bulk of this article, I find it necessary to give you a short preliminary on the history of Witches and Witchcraft which will fit everything into its place.
-Witchcraft is an English/Germanic phenomenon
-"Witch" is an Anglo-Saxon word referring to a very specific set of mystical and spiritual practices of the Ancient Teutons, specifically those related to the ancient Art of Seidhr, and the Old Earth-and-Water based Cults of the Wanes, as well as the old Huldafolk who appear in mythology as what remains of an animistic strain of pre-Aesir era Cthonic paganism under the Shadowy Queen of the Haegtessa, or the "Hedge Riders", who are the men and women whom history remembers as "Wicce" or "Witches"1
-Odin/Woden is and always will be one of the four chief powers that govern Witchcraft; he is viewed through a different lens than that of the Norse but is technically the same deity.
-Freyja’s role is also equally important. She too is the "Rose Queen" of Witchcraft, governing as a chief power, viewed through a different lens as well.
The charm used by Odin, "if I see witches riding through the air…" certainly refers to myrk-riding witches, and anyone not familiar with seidhr practices would find this remark perplexing, especially coming from a deity that governs the practice.
The truth is quite simple: Odin is referring to the witches who are enemies of Valhalla and Asgard (remember, Odin is a Seidman himself, known to myrk ride and shape shift himself in the form of a horse).
A lot of Seidwomen were enemies of Valhalla due to an alliance with lesser Giantish forces such as the trolls, making them also the enemies of the gods. The trolls are seen in Witchery as the malevolent forces in nature, personified as feminine in most cases, and many Seid-folk, and later Witches, could find themselves aligned with these forces, playing the role of a wicked servant. The Witches would utilize these powers, known as "Troll Magic" or "Trullskapir", which is the ability to steal the life force from a person. Tales of Witches sucking the blood from infants don’t sound so far-fetched anymore.
The pagan must remember that magic itself is a Giantish force, drawing on natural forces, forces that can be very dangerous-and this is why even in pagan times, Witches were feared or banished.
Remember, our great Mother is too a Giant, the underlying force of all of Nature, Hulda, Herself and she is also Woden’s/Odin’s Mother as well; Odin utilizing this same power when need be. Everything is a huge natural force-sorcery, sex, all of it Giantish. This force is dangerous when not balanced with Godly force, like that provided by Odin/The Master. This force was given to humans to hold the powers in check, allowing us to co-exist.
It is dangerous to ignore the Godly side because when the Giantish side gets out of control, we can see what results: rape, murder, greed and pure ignorance. The very natural power that the Church demonized, ironically being used by it all the while.
The gods themselves have Giantish natures, dark sides, and, taking Odin (or even Thor) for example, he uses his Giantish and Godly forces freely to do what must be done to maintain world-order.2
You cannot do real magic without accessing this Jotun force, but you must use it without letting it get away with you or the power runs wild and usually messes you over in some awful way.
The word "Witch" doesn’t just refer to people that work for wisdom, it also refers to women who did things like Trullskapir and who basically wielded dark forces without wisdom. So the herbs and charms that stop Giantish forces and that uphold protective order would also stop witches who were aligned to those forces. 3
1. Article by Robin Artisson.
–Also thanks to Sarah T.
Copyright © 2006 J. Faulk. All Rights Reserved.