Völva

A völva is, at its core, the Norse version of a witch. However, there are some interesting cultural differences that should be appreciated.  

Women's Magic

The völva title exclusively applied to women, firstly. There is no indication that this was based on external sex characteristics rather than gender identity, and there is some indication that gender identity was respected rather than forced upon an individual.   That said, regardless of historical accuracy, there are Norse Pagan groups that allow women-identifying people to earn the title of völva, There are also groups that enforce gender based on sex assignment at birth. However, there are even more groups that dismiss the use of magic as they see it as historically inaccurate altogether.  

Seidr

While the title of women who practice magic are called völva, the magic used is called seidr. It is seen as a practice closely related to spinning and weaving (using fate and magic rather than fiber), and is thus a woman's craft.   Interestingly, this seems to be more due to the finesse and nuance required of threadcrafts, and respect for the semi-rigid social structure that helped the Norse people know their duties based on their place within the family structure, rather than a derrogatory attitude toward women or threadcraft. This makes sense as a culture with long harsh winters would likely have a great appreciation for the making of clothing.   In mythology, Odin was known to have actively persued the learning of seidr as part of his seeking of all knowledge. Loki once taunted him about it, calling him unmanly.  

Career

A völva is a woman who uses seidr to create effects on the threads of life and fate. A woman who takes on the career of a völva is often older, though sometimes a younger woman will do the same.   Most völva are older women for two reasons. The first is that they have had more life experience and practice with seidr. This generally makes older women more effective practitioners of seidr. The second reason is that a völva exchanges the normal place of a woman as the holder of the family home for a nomadic lifestyle.   A professional völva would spend most of her time travelling from village to village, offering her magical services in exchange for room and board, as well as extra goods. These commissioned services were highly feared and respected, which assured the völva of both a lucrative career and safety during long journeys between habitations.  

Modern Völva

Too Wyrd Excerpt
“Back when the gods were worshipped throughout the northern world,” Mercy said, slowly, “my sisters and I would come to earth and watch those of you with gifts. They were called völva, women of the seidr. They revered their gifts. They didn't call them a pain in the ass. They were provided for, with shelter and food wherever they went.”
Nicola smiled. “Yeah, the völva. Honored and respected in their communities. So, they weren't called crazy? Or sinful? The devil's whores? Baby-eaters?”
~Too Wyrd
  Modern völva are much like any other Pagan priesthood. They work for years perfecting their skills without many experienced teachers or guidance. Even those who find a good teacher may not have much choice in what they learn or from whom.   Once they have learned their skills to a degree that they feel comfortable offering them, they often offer them to without compensation as a gift they are passing on. Unfortunately, this creates a lot of expectation from those on the recieving end and disregard for the efforts the völva has made.   Those who do choose to demand compensation are often verbally attacked for that choice. Additionally, they are put into a position of treating their ability like any other niche skill. They often have to market their offerings and "sell" themselves as skilled, as well as selling the skill itself as something worth paying for.   This leads to a high rate of burnout, and most do not end up living off of their hard-earned skillset. When combined with the common discrimination of a Christianized culture, it becomes very difficult to even find a practicing völva in the modern world.

Career

Qualifications

The specific qualifications of the völva in historical Norse culture has been lost to the past. However, as with many Pagan groups, there is a certain amount of knowing oneself and acknowledgment by peers that goes into being a völva.

Payment & Reimbursement

The Norse were big into trade and barter, and a völva lived on the road, travelling most of the time. One can deduce likely forms of payment from that, including food stuffs, a place to sleep, cloth for clothing, jewelry, trims, etc.   In modern times, völva often charge by the service. A common rate is $20 for a 15 min divination.

Operations

Tools

Each völva will have their own preferred magical talismans, spell components, etc that they prefer to use.

Provided Services

Divination is the most commonly offered service. Healing, curse-breaking, and even exorcism of a home are also often-offered services.
Specific spells are common as well, though they tend to be provided only when asked for rather than offered out of hand.

Dangers & Hazards

There are innate dangers to the practice of magic, though they vary significantly based on a number of factors, including skill level, spell type, and even the personalities of both the practitioner and the person requesting the service.

Many of the effects of these dangers are similar to loss of sanity or the effects of psychological abuse.
Type
Religious
Legality
Anti-witchcraft laws may still be on the books in locations throughout the world, even in modern, industrialized nations. While they may not be enforced often, practitioners should be aware of whether they are at risk of prosecution.

Additionally, many magic practitioners may find themselves at risk of prosecution for fraud. Witches often have a "for entertainment purposes only" disclaimer to avoid this, though it isn't guaranteed protection.

It should be noted that Christian practitioners of many of the same skills, but done under the label of Christianity, are significantly less likely to face such charges.

Famous in the Field

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