In Astfanginn, seidrr and völic magical action permeates everyday life. Not everything people do is seidrr, but if you see a local performing any action in an intense or deliberate way, they might be doing seidr (magic) – even though superficially they might be building a fire, choosing in what order they dress themselves, having sex, or even partaking in a feast.
In this larp, seidr is both an internal (like meditation and visualisation) and an external (like ritual) practice. Doing seidr is working with an intent that shapes the world. The stronger the actions performed in support of the intent, the stronger the effect. Magic can become stronger through sacrifice, endurance, pooling strength between völvas and the life force of non-völvas, or through using objects or actions that are revered or taboo. The Seidrr finds it’s way into the world through the person who wields it. Even the gods themselves had to pay to get the knowledge on how the use Seidrr. Odin, the Allfather, hung himself from the worl tree to gain it.
Seidr is not a religion – the religion of this culture is the polyteistic faith in the aesir, vanir and other creatures and spirits. Like a viking warrior would be likely to focus their religious practice on war gods such as Tyr and Freya, a völva will usually also choose a tradition that channels a tiny amount of the power of a specific supernatural being.
Being a “follower” is following a specific experienced völva, not a specific deity – but in practice they will typically be trained in that Völvas’s tradition. Senior and powerful völvas, like the council members, have belonged to a tradition, but over time their practice has evolved and as council members their focus deities are the norns (the fate-weavers). As council members don’t have followers, although they might have thralls, they tend to mentor one or a few followers in other groups, and use their assistance in ritual. In this way, their continuing seidr learning trickles down into the other groups. Magical collaboration between different groups of völvas requires coordination of a council member (and during the larp, a magical disagreement or outcome can usually be resolved by asking council input).
All Völvas have a “staff” but the staff can be very differently designed. It is generally not shorter than your lower arm, but seldom longer than 2 meters. Some would use their staff to mix the potion they are making in cauldron, others would use their staff as a weapon.
The seidr traditions in Astfanginn
The Council of the 7
Upon being choosen to enter the council and accepting a Völva will leave her followers behind. She will officially follow the tradition of the norns, the weavers of fate, but this will be influenced by the tradition she came from.
A trained council member can do most seidr described below; in addition they are best at seeing faiths, structures, possible futures, and speaking to the gods.
They are best at understanding how the traditions best combine, but they do not have followers as they do not need them for everyday seidr. They need to collaborate with each other and the rest of the village to work very great seidr. Some council members still revere and honor the old tradition they followed before entering the council. The Council can call for a village wide ritual in instances of either great need or when there is a chanse of great gain. This overrules the autonomy that usually granted to Völvas with their own followers and is generally avoided if it risks creating a divide within the community. They will then need to make plans on what each group of völva and followers need to be able to do, but they do not decide how it is done. That is up to the völva and her followers to design and perform.
Council members staffs are often influenced by the tradition they came from.
Järngerd follow the goddess giants Gefjon and Gríðr and this seidr makes members into super humans (think Wonder Woman). The seidr makes them physically strong and active, with sharpened senses but the supernatural strength lies in their belts of power. These belts are their most prided possesion and granted to them when they are allowed to follow Järngerd. The strength of the belt can be taken away/temporarily gifted by handing over their belt to someone else. But the power drains rapidly from the belt when used by others and has to then by worn by Järngerd or her followers to be restored. They are deliberately enchanted like this and it is to protect the carrier from harming themselves through channeling too much power over time. It is something only a völva of Gefjon and Gríðr can stand.
Potions can also be made and used to give a specific temporary physical skill – the effect is brief and the potion once made will only be potent for perhaps 24 hours if it’s good quality.
Järngerd and her followers can also capture and subdue an enemy or a prisoner who struggles. Using their specialities they can render a fully grown man helpless with their touch, their spoken seidrr and their blessed weapons.
Järngerd Staffs are often weapons, made to beat, whip and punish.
The tradition they follow is of the god Njörðr. This is the seidr of seeing, truth and finding.
This seidr sees current and, from a limited perspective, future events. To channel it völvas use bodies of water, sometimes just a bucket, to drown themselves and others. By doing this they become able to see things that are or have been in the water. Drowning others is mostly done consensually, but not always. It can be done as punishment, to force the victim to be confronted with what has happened, and what they have done. The Völvas hold their face under water until they give up and their bodies relax into it. To be “drowned” is a dreamlike existence in which time is of less importance.
Ljot and followers can sometimes manifest objects from bodies of water on Midgard (earth) – but they hate doing that, because the objects manifest inside their body and have to be vomited into existence.
Ljot staffs are often made with drift wood, or is adorned with remnants of things that lived in water or off the water. It can be made from an old oar or just inexplicably always wet.
The völva and followers are connected to Idunn with the golden apples. This seidr heals wounds and prolongs life by mostly (force) feeding the recipient food or drink imbued with life-giving powers. Not as nice as they sound. This magic only works when administered by the Völva herself. She can’t imbue food and drink and send it by someone else.
A person at the end of their natural life span can be kept alive with this magic – sometimes a coward will ruin their family by paying to extend their life for as long as a völva can be talked into staying with them.
Wounds can be completely healed as long as the wounded person is still alive, and the patient can live a long life, always knowing that somewhere in the world a völva has the power to reverse their spell and reopen the old wound by will.
Gyrid staffs can be hung with all kind of useful things. A twig of herbs. A wooden spoon. A small cup. Or it can be smaller staff, perfect for mixing the content of a cauldron.
Follows Frey and Freya. This seidr relates to fertility, sex and battle – these völvas understand and spin the strategy of battle as well as the life giving force of intimate relations. They can make and break the bond between lovers and can make and break the outcome of a battle. Battle fate-spinning is done from far away, by standing on an overlook point or acting through vision and physically spinning or weaving outcomes with a fitting material. Can bless a fighter or a lover. This seidr involves anointment, massage, kisses and caresses, but also blood play.
If Freya has gifted you in battle, you will become horny afterwards: the thirst for life becomes stronger in the presence of death, as Freya is goddess for both. She will demand a physical celebration as thanks for the luck she has granted.
Frey works with the fertility of the fields and the outcome of the crops. He is there for those who plan ahead and plan to live a long life.
Freybiorn staffs are…suggestive. They can have carved messages on them, or just simply penises and vaginas. There can be traces of blood or other fluids on them. But they are usually nice and smooth to the touch. Some of them feel warm and like they have veins of their own.
The Followers of Skade belong to the tradition of Hel. Their seidr fills the recipient with dread and fear. If they touch you, these völvas can turn back the consequences of your previous evil or selfish actions upon your own body – the more they know about you, the more specific your suffering will be. Casual touch does not have this effect, unless they want it to, and what happens when you have sex with them is disputed – whether the consequences of ill deeds always are released into their partners, and whether it is by accident or out of pure spite. They can also make someone fall into a death like coma; barter with death; or barter about which part of Hel you will end up in if you do not die in battle.
Skade staffs can be made from metal, from bone, or bone white wood. Wood staffs can also be black. They feel cold to the touch. Often bones, teeth and feather hang from them.