compiled by Scott Trimble


Folktales of Norway, edited by Reidar Th. Christiansen, 1964.
Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend, Reimund Kvideland & Henning K. Sehmsdorf, 1988.
Scandinavian 165 (Scandinavian Folklore), course by John Lindow, U.C. Berkeley, Spring 1997.

  • not yet completed, under construction as of 6 March 1997

    • P. Chr. Asbjörnsen — Many of the folktales were collected by this guy in the mid- to late-1800s.
    • Bergtagning — This is the term for when people are kidnapped by the huldre-folk, literally "taking into the mountain". This was sometimes done with a motive, but often not.
    • Black Book — Also known as Cyprianus, it is the textbook of the Black School at Wittenburg, the book from which a witch or sorceror gets his spells.
    • Black School at Wittenburg — In the folktales, this was a place in Germany where one went to learn the black arts. One common motif was that the teacher, the Devil, would grab the last graduating pupil, but that the student would escape by instead giving up his coat or shadow instead.
    • Boundary Ghost — Ownership of land was the very basis of rural life. Magic rituals accompanied the placing of boundary stones, and stealing land by moving such a stone was severely punished. According to medieval Norwegian law, anyone stealing land was declared an outlaw. In recent tradition the thief is forced to walk again after death, struggling in vain to return the boundary stone to its proper place.
    • Changelings — A baby or being from the other world that occupies the place of the human baby in this world. A switch is accomplished while the human baby is unattended, but usually the humans eventually are able to get the creature to take the baby back by treating the changeling poorly, getting it to reveal its name, taking it to get baptised, etc. Some signs that the child is a changeling are excessive crying, won't speak, dark or ugly, won't grow, misshapen, over-eats, sudden changes, etc. The parents could have protected their child by baptism, putting a piece of metal in the cradle, or carving a cross on the cradle's headboard. The word "byting" refers to an exchange.
    • Churches — Churches are the site for the rites of passage (see below) and are also a window between the world of the living and the dead or the invisible. It is interesting that the churches were often stone buildings while others were not — trolls turned into stone when hit by sunlight. The church could often be inhabited by the supernatural usually when we are not there, an example being the Midnight Mass of the Dead (see below).
    • Ellevolk — elves
    • Finns — The Finns (Laplanders, Saami) are famous in Norwegian folklore for their abilities in witchcraft. Especially they are able to to let the soul travel to foreign places while the body is in a trance.
    • Foaf — Friend Of A Friend, i.e. where most folklore stories and urban legends seem to originate from.
    • Folklore — The word itself was coined by William Thoms in 1846. feautures: oral transmission, anonymous origin, tradition, uneducated folk, group, certain forms, ownership, dynamic. Horizontal transmission --> to your peers. Vertical transmission --> to the next generation.
    • Ghosts — Whereas revenants are dead people returning to haunt the living for various reasons, ghosts usually appear as impersonal spooks. Most often they appear at night, making their presence known by shouting or wailing, seizing hold of people, stopping horses on the road, or by other undefined movements and actions. The encounter with ghosts often causes sickness and, at times, even death.
    • Giants — In the oldest literature of Scandinavia, we find primordial giants identified with the origin and creation of the world. They are usually cast in the role of enemies of the gods and the human community. With the introduction of Christianity, they became enemies of the church as well. In more recent folk tradition, the giants usually appear as imaginary figures rather than as preternatural beings people actually believed in. They play a major role in fabulats and etiological legends explaining the origin of natural phenomena such as huge rock formations, lakes, and the so-called jættegryter ("giant potholes"). [jätte (Swedish), troll / jotun (Norwegian), jætte (Danish)]
      • trolls — Often this word refers to all the mythical beings, but there really is a distinction. Trolls, which belong to a distant past, are huge and grotesque, may only have a single eye in the middle of their forehead, and very often have three heads. They are terribly strong but are also stupid and are easily tricked by a quick-witted person. They abhor the sounds of churchbells and they have a predilection for eating human flesh. Their homeland was the dark, ice-covered land of Trollebotn, the huge frozen bay which was assumed to connect Greenland to north of Scandinavia. Gyger (or Gjöger) are female trolls, giantesses.
    • Jakob & Wilhelm Grimm — They were collectors of legends in Germany, one book of which was called "Deutsch Sagen". In the United States they are known for "Grimm's Fairytales". One of them was quoted as saying, "Das Märchen ist poetischer, die Sage historischer." (The folklore is poetic, the legend historical."
    • Healing — Healing, bleeding, love potions, spells, etc. Magical, special abilities were involved with problem-solving. These acts were sometimes positive, sometimes negative. Means for healing: inanimate objects, sympathetic magic, must be done in private, exorcism, urinating in the kitchen fire, etc. Stuff that can also be done: put out or control wildfires, get rid of rat infestations, open broken locks, binding and loosing, tracking down thieves, creating wind for sailing, etc.
    • Household Spirits — They are almost always males, usually small, very old or very young, strong, loyal to the farm, and sometimes wear a little red hat and grey. Some common motifs include teasing the nisse (eating food that was meant for it, leaving feces as food for it instead, not putting the butter on top of the porridge), sending the nisse to steal from other people's farms, the heavy burden, etc. If, for some reason, the nisse is exorcised from the farm, then he takes with him all that he brought or did, thus the farm falls to ruin. [armağur "hearth man", tomte "homestead man"]
      • nisse — The nisse are related to the huldre-folk, but are not so dangerous. They are guardians of the house or farm who will defend its welfare. They are inordinately strong, but of diminutive size. The term nisse is derived from the Danish / German St. Nicholas, and the nisse themselves are thus distant relations of Santa Claus.
      • gardvord — From "farm guardian", these nisse are more sinister and are very big (some have seen them lay there elbows upon the roof). In a variation of the Lanky Tor story, the gardvord saves the guy by chasing after the trolls. [tunkall or "yard fellow" (common in western and northern Norway), godbonde]
      • klabautermann — This is spirit who guards the ship. In one story it woke up the ship's mate when the lamp went out, and in another it held the masts together.
    • Hug — The hug is the human soul. It refers to the mental life of the individual — to personality, thoughts, feelings, and desires. The hug could affect both animate and inanimate objects, including other people, either consciously or unconsciously. The deliberate manipulation of the hug is the basis of all magic. It can manifest itself invisibly or it can take on a shape. It was was movable and can preface a real appearance, exist somewhere else at the same time, be in different places, etc. Sometimes it appears just before death, just at death, or right after death. It was somewhat like a human döppelganger. Sometimes it would be in the form of a mouse that exits the person's mouth while s/he sleeps, or maybe it would be a vapor that would float around the area. [sjel (Norwegian), håg or själ (Swedish), hu or sjæl (Danish)]
      • dream-soul — This leaves the body during sleep, explores the world (sometimes passing some kind of treasure), and the experiences are remembered by the sleeper as a dream.
      • elsk — According to wide-spread belief, a person could get ill in body and mind from being longed for by someone else. Usually the longing, traditionally called elsk (love), was of an erotic nature. The lover might be a human or a supranormal being. But even the dead were known to impose an elsk on a surviving relative and thereby make him or her sick, or a living person could long for the dead and keep the loved one from finding peace in the grave.
      • envy — A particularly powerful manifestation of the hug is referred to in folk tradition as "envy" which was feared by many people. It was believed that this emotion had a strong, adverse effect on human beings and animals, as well as on inanimate objects. [avind (Danish), ovund (Norwegian), avund (Swedish)]
      • Evil Eye — It was generally believed that the power of the hug could be transferred to another being or object through sight, touch, or the spoken word, often with the intent to do harm. Hence, the expressions evil eye, evil hand, evil foot, and evil tongue.
      • free-soul — This is the soul sent from the body in magic flight.
      • fylgje — The fylgje is a projection of the hug that accompanies a person. It takes either human shpae or that of an animal. Normally, only animals or people with second sight can see the fylgje. In medieval literature, notably the Icelandic sagas, the fylgje also had a protective function, which was alter assumed by the Christian angel. In recent tradition, belief in the fylgje spills over into that of the vardoger and is often called by that name.
      • vardöger or fyreferd — These refer to a visual or auditory experience presaging a person's approach. [förfäl (Swedish)]
      • vord — The vord was a kind of presence accompanying the individual. [vård (Swedish)]
    • Inversion — This is one theme through certain folklore stories in which there is some kind of reversal. Stuff that is part of our culture is not part of that of the huldre-folk, and vice versa. Examples: farms vs. nature, food vs. not food (people, leaves, woodchips, excrement), Christianity vs. no religion, normal vs. abnormal, alive vs. undead, etc.
    • Invisible Folk — There are widespread traditions in Scandinavia about preternatural beings of various kinds. Although they are invisible, from time to time they appear to ordinary people, and when they do, they are in human shape. The "invisible folk" constitute quite heterogenous groupings in the different geographical areas of Scandinavia and are called by a variety of names.
      • huldre — They lived in the mountains (bergfolk) or hills, or even right under the ground (underjordiske), cellar (kjellerman), grave-mounds (haugfolk), house, or barn. They also sometimes lived in the seters during the off-season. The huldre are much more closely related to man than, say, the jutal or trolls, since they are very human-like in appearance. They were often mistaken for man and there were often intermarriages. They can be very beautiful or they can be grotesque. Sometimes they had a hidden feature such as a cow's tail. Despite their similarity to us, contact with them is risky and dangerous. They steal infants (see changeling above), attempt marry brides-to-be left alone at the seter, kidnap people, and might share some dangerous food or drink. Female huldre are known as hulder. [vetter or vithrar (supernatural beings that live on the edge of the area inhabited by human beings), tufte-folk (probably also related, although vaguely defined), tusse (another term for a supernatural being, often a gnome or goblin)]
        • Lilith — Some stories say that the Bible's Adam had a first wife before Eve and that the huldre-folk are descended from her. In one legend, a tusse minister explains the Lilith story this way, "That woman, who was created in the very beginning, was Adam's equal in every way, and would never be under him in anything. She considered herself as just as good a creation as he. But God said that it wasn't good for man and woman to be equal, and so he sent her and her offspring away, and put them into the hills to live. They are without sin, and they stay there inside the hills, except when they themselves want to be seen. But in the second chapter, God took a rib out of Adam's side and made a woman out of it, and then Adam said 'This time,' because she was taken out of the man. Her offspring have sin, and that's why God had to give them the New Testament. The tusse-folk only need the Old." Another variant says that the invisible folk were actually descendents of Eve's children whom God forever cursed to remain invisible after she hid them from him since she was so ashamed of how many kids she was having.
        • good relations — Because the huldre were thought to live side-by-side with human beings, the work rhythms and daily needs of both groups overlapped in many ways. Thus, in many instances, legends tell us how the invisible folk help humans and vice-versa. People looked to preternatural beings for advice, special tools, and perhaps for help in emergency situations. The invisible folk requested aid from humans when, for example, a child was to be born. It was important that contact between the worlds respected certain norms and limits. And in spite of generally good and neighborly relations, there remained an element of fear based on the realization that the invisible folk were more powerful than humans.
      • jutal — Also known as Jotuns or Jötnar, they are the giants that especially appeared in the older mythology as enemies of the gods, especially of Thor.
      • fairies — Charcoal burners, lumberjacks, and half-grown boys and girls tending the cattle on the outlying summer farms often experienced the preternatural beings as erotically seductive. Legends reveal that people were simultaneously attracted and afraid of these beings. A young man might throw steel over the forest woman to bind her to himself, or he might use some protective magic to be rid of her. The marriage ceremony between a girl and a fairy lover might be interrupted at the last moment. There might be an actual liaison between a human and one of the invisible folk, resulting in the birth of a child, the disappearance of the person, or, inversely, the absorption of the supranormal being into human society. Sometimes, refusal of the erotic attentions of the fairy lover caused sickness, madness, even death. One of the important functions of legends about fairy lovers was to enforce certain rules of behavior on the men and women working in isolated areas.
      • The Spirit of the Mill — In Norway, and in Sweden mostly along the Norwegian border, folk traditions exist about the mill spirit. This preternatural being is known to stop the mill if it is run at night or on a holy day. The implied sanction against such inappropriate use of the mill is not unequivocal, however, because the mill sprite is invariably pacified or driven away. The mill spirit is disruptive and threatens the human who has to resolve the problem. [kvarngubben "old man of the mill" (Swedish), kvernknurren "mill snarl"]
      • The Spirit of the Mine — Mining legends constitute one of the largest categories in the folk tradition of continental Europe. They are not nearly as numerous in Scandinavia because of the relative scarcity of mining activities there. In Norway and Sweden, the spirit of the mine appears most often as a solitary, female being. The spirit helps the miner find the ore and protects him while he is working in the shaft. But she is also believed to jealously guard the wealth hidden below ground, causing the loss of life and other disasters in the mine. There are also traditions about the invisible folk exploiting the mines, a tradition which has its antecedents in mythological stories about dwarfs as miners and smiths. [gruvrå "ruler of the mine", gruvröken, "lady of the mine", sølvmora "silver mother"]
      • Spirits of the Sea — The sea, like any other aspect of nature, was believed to be populated by various preternatural beings, both solitary and collective. As a group they correspond in nature and function to the invisible folk of forests, fields, rivers, and farmsteads, but they are modified to reflect the environment of the sea. They include the sjørå ("sea ruler"), mermaid and merman, draug, sea horses, sea monsters, and inhabitants of fabulous islands.
        • draug — These ghosts (or "living dead person") were usually victims of drownings and didn't get a proper funeral. They are sinister, malevolent beings and often got into battles with the land draugs at the cemetery. Their appearance or their shrieking are usually omens of impending disaster. The draug may be taken aboard in the form of a moss-covered stone which will grow too heavy for the boat to stay afloat. Closeup, the face is a bundle of sea wrack. [Rawga (Lappish)]
        • mermaids, mermen — They are kinder people of the sea that were human-like from the waist up, but had a fish- or porpoise-like body in place of the legs. Mermen often showed gratitude for gifts, such as mittens.
        • sea serpents — They breed in inland lakes and, when they are old enough, eventually try to get to the open sea. One famous folktale account is one at Lake Mjösen which was killed between 1520 and 1530.
        • seals — The seals were actually people who had drowned in suicide attempts and were now condemned to wear seal-skins. In one story somebody manages to steal one seal-woman's skin on the one day of the year that they secretly take it off. He forced her to marry him and kept her in human-form until she was able to get her skin back.
        • Utröst — Group of mysterious, disappearing / reappearing islands where supernatural beings similar to the huldre-folk live.
      • Skogsra — forest sprite, female creature that is entirely human-like except for a hollowed-out back or sometimes a tail. The back is somewhat like a kneeding trough or a stable scoop (crude tool).
      • The Water Sprites — The spirits of waterfalls, rivers, and lakes appear variously in human or horse shape. [another term besides nøkk and grim is stromkarl]
        • nøkk — Often a demonic being, they are water-creatures in human- or horse-like form. Often in the form of a white horse grazing by the lakeside, it tempts young boys onto its back (and it can stretch to accomodate many riders) and then jumps into the lake.. A magic word (usually its name) will make it disappear or return back to the water. [näck (Swedish), nix (English)]
        • fossegrim — They live in waterfalls and rivers and have taught many eminent fiddlers how to play.
        • grim — Norwegian variant, also applied to the spirit of the church and graveyard in Sweden and Denmark.
      • The Wild Hunt / Spirits of the Air — In Scandinavian folk tradition, there are two chief types of night riders: the hunter and his dogs pursuing a woman, and the host flying through the air — especially at Christmastime. In Norway this host is usually called oskorei or jolareidi.
        • oskorei — The "terrible host" of evil spirits, it sweeps through Norwegian valleys on winter nights, especially before Christmas time. It was often said that the host consisted of those who were not bad enough to go to Hell, nor good enough to go to Heaven. The oskorei were hostile and would often carry people away to some distant place or would settle down for awhile on a farm. [jolerei (another term for it, this one implies that it is particularly dangerous at Christmas), gyro (name from fiction or ancient romance), sluagh (Scotland and Ireland)]
        • gangferd — This term is "the wild hunt" of the osorei, et al. It refers to restless, unhappy ghosts who sometimes compel living persons to follow them about.
      • wood sprite — some say that this is a huldre that lives by itself, others say there is no difference
    • Jagt — This is a kind of fishing boat.
    • Lanky Tor — He lived in the mountains, wouldn't stay home in his parish, and wanted to live alone and by hunting only. He didn't know what day of the week it was, hence he had no idea when it was Sunday, the Lord's Day of Rest. On Christmas Eve, the trolls scared him by saying loudly (and as if they didn't know Lanky Tor was listening) that they would boil him for dinner. He returned back to the parish and gave up his life in the mountains.
    • Legends
      • Migratory Legends — The story is flexible enough or non-specific enough that it can easily spread to other localities. Also known as fabulates, they can be localized, but the story no longer has the direct personal touch and instead follows a definite pattern.
      • Local Legends — The story is bound by its content to a local place and cannot spread too easily. An example are the legends about Dwinelle Hall on the U.C. Berkeley campus.
      • Historical Legends — This possibly has its origins in a historical event.
      • Urban Legends — Modern folklore stories such as the Kentucky Fried Rat, the Hook, the psycho babysitter, sexual references in Disney films, the sperm on the cheek cell culture, Richard Gere and the gerbil, etc. Check out The Urban Legends Page for a good reference of types.
      • Memorate — This is a first- or second-hand account of a supernatural experience that are almost always connected with some landmark, locality, or person.
    • Lenore — The dead lover returns to bring a message, to take revenge, or to respond to the grief of his beloved. The most famous interpretation of this popular motif is found in G.A. Bürger's ballad "Lenore".
    • Liminal Status — This somewhat means "on the threshold", as if the thing it is describing is not quite in our world but not quite in that of the supernatural either. One example are the gasts (ghosts) who aren't fully in either the world of the dead or the living. Mares and witches are partly supernatural, but also partly our friends or neighbors. There can be lots of ambiguity. Liminal Status relates to the ideas of the Rites of Passage in that the person is on the threshold between two important stages in his or her life.
    • Limited Good — Phenomenon or idea brought up by George Foster in which there is only so much good in the world, so that if one person is prospering he must be doing it at the expense of someone else. Nisse were household spirits that stole from a neighbor, thus increasing the prosperity of the farmer who owns that nisse. There can't be a winner without a loser. People who get ahead often make pacts with the Devil, but this can be seen as a way out of Limited Good since in this case they are not getting ahead at someone else's expense. The witches related to Limited Good in the sense that their stealing (through knife-milking, troll cats, etc.) always had to be at someone else's expense. Boundary ghosts also related to Limited Good.
    • Mara — The dream experience commonly referred to as a nightmare was interpreted as the visitation of someone's hug. Sexual dreams play a large part in this context. The mare is usually described as a weight on the sleeper's chest. Both human beings and animals could be "ridden" by the mare. In time the mare developed into a separate supranormal being. It was believed that a woman could ease birth pains by crawling through the fetal membrane of a foal. But her offspring would become a mare, if female, a werewolf, if male. Mares are one of the oldest kinds of supernatural beings and can cause the person also to get cold sweats, go into paralyis, and become oppressed.
    • the master builder — A common motif in Norway and Sweden was the folktale of a supernatural creature being hired to finish construction of a cathedral, usually to put on the final spire. If the minister found out the creature's name, he was saved from himself becoming payment for the work.
    • Midnight Mass of the Dead — The stories about the midnight mass of the dead constitute a type of migratory legend. As early as the 4th century c.e. in stories about saints' lives, the midnight mass is celebrated by angels, the blessed dead, and the saint. Another version, possibly based on popular tradition, is found in Gregory of Tours' De Gloria Confessorum (sixth century), in which the midnight mass is attended by the dead and ordinary people rather than by angels and saints. In folk legends the story is consistently focused on the fear of the dead and on the narrow escape of the unwitting observer.
    • King Olav — He ruled Norway from 995 to 1030 c.e. He is the national saint of Norway and is exceedingly popular in Norwegian oral tradition, being especially well known as an adversary of trolls and giants. This trait he seems to have inherited from the pagan Norse god, Thor, who was at one time more celebrated in Norway than in any other area of Scandinavia. St. Olav was frequently the protagonist in the "master builder" tales.
    • Rites of Passage — Birth (Baptism), Marriage (Wedding), Death (Funeral). These are vulnerable times when someone is susceptible to attack by a supernatural being. The parson performs the ceremonies for the rites of passage, traveling from parish to parish doing his services. Satan is a threat to these and the religious nature of the community.
    • Satan — Features: cloven hoof, horrible to look at, well-dressed, can change shape (fly, dog, etc.), tail, beard. Good things that the Devil can do for you: give you a ride quickly somewhere, make you rich, give you success with the opposite sex, can appear when you need him (like a Genie), success in hunting and fishing, etc. Bad things: take stuff away from you (shadow, child, soul). He requires a written letter or contract. In such, people often demand for large amounts of money. This can be a way out of Limited Good since you don't have to take from others to get ahead. Some common euphemisms for the Devil include Old Erik, Old Jerker, Old Peter, the Goat, the Evil One, the old guy, etc. The0rural view was the reading and writing were magical, and the Devil himself was skilled in such, through his use of the Black Book and the way he kept a written tally of who were not paying attention at the church sermons. Satan could be called by cursing or through inexperienced use of the Black Book. To get rid of him, the owner of the Book would make him do something that is beyond even his power, like make a rope out of sand or reverse the flow of a waterfall. Satan can be tricked by a clever person and he can even volunatarily help somebody (like the charcoal-burners). Society did not look at dancing too favorably and Satan himself would often dance somebody to death.
      • Christen Pedersen and Johannes Geremiæson — They were real-life people who wrote out contracts that they hoped to make with the Devil. The act of actually acting on something from folk belief such as this is known as ostension.
      • Petter Dass (1647-1707) — Dass was a minister, as well as the most popular Norwegian author of his time. He was best known as the author of hymns based on holy scripture and the catechism. In legendary tradition, he is characterized as the owner of the Black Book and a master magician. In one story he got a ride from the Devil on his way to preach in Copenhagen. In return the Devil would take the souls of everyone sleeping in church that day. Petter Dass, without any notes prepared ahead of time, "preached a sermon the likes of which no one had ever heard before", and thus Satan didn't get any souls since nobody was sleeping.
    • Scandinavia — Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Faroe Islands, Iceland. Geographically, Finland is a part of Scandinavia, but culturally it is very different.
    • Seter — An outfarm n the mountains inhabited only in the summer. Unmarried women generally take care of the cattle and do churning and cheesemaking there.
    • Carl Wilhelm von Sydow — He was a famous folklorist who coined many terms. He's also the father of actor Max von Sydow from "Dune" and "Needful Things".
    • Valborg — It was the evening of April 30th when people would get drunk and jump into the frozen river. Special significance to the witches.
    • Werewolves and Man-Bears — Throughout most of the world there are traditions about human beings changing into wolves or bears. In this instance it is not a matter of the hug separating from the body and taking on another shape; rather, the whole person is transformed, body and soul, into an animal being. The transformation may be self-induced or may be due to hostile magic. In medical context the phenomenon has been characterized as a form of insanity (lycanthropoy). Both werewolves and man-bears are well-known from medieval literature. The so-called berserks often formed the bodyguard of early Scandinavian kings and chieftains.
    • Witchcraft — Witches usually acquired their supernatural powers through a pact with the Devil. They live within the human community and are not so solitary, but are often social people. Some of their functions: theft (milk, brandy, cream, butter), flight (to the witches' sabbath), harm (animals and people), winds (whirlwind for travel and destruction, sailing winds), shamanic behavior (second sight). Often the witches were the "others" in a community — through ethnicity (gypsy, Saami) , location, social status, parentage (orphans), or religion (not Christian) — but they might also be very much not an "other" — the parson's wife, or the rich and powerful mother. Witches could fly by applying salve and a spell to stuff like brooms, barrels, people, and bones. They often sent out trolls cats, bunnies, or wool to do certain chores. They did voodoo curses by sticking pins into dolls to hurt a person, and could replenish the same food over and over (i.e. the same meat returns back to the herring bone). Witches are not deterred by metal, but use it to their advantage — for example, one witch could not be burned as long as a metal piece was stuck in her back.
      • Marte Holon — She was a famous witch from Northern Norway who had a troll cat and a Black Book. Hans Tofte found troll cat vomit around his farm, so he sealed it up in the barrel of his gun and heated it over the forge. Marta Holon came running into the smithy and desperately asked for something to drink. Hans and the blacksmith offered her a mug of their urine while Hans then hit her across the mouth with his shoe so that two teeth fell out and blood started flowing.
      • knife-milking — Knife-milking was sticking a knife into the wall and catching in a bucket the milk that would spout from the end of the handle. The milk is magically coming from someone else cow. If one were to knife-milk too long, blood would start to come out and then cow would die.
      • magic shot — Also known as Finn shot, this was the name given to projectiles supposedly causing sickness or sudden death. They were imagined to be sent in the form of bullets, insects, clouds or vapor, and so on. Many legends are concerned with the means by which one could protect oneself against this type of magic.
      • salve — The salve was made of herbs, roots, and hallucinogens. They smeared it on an object or on themselves. Often imagination and masturbation were involved.
      • seiğr — A specially potent and malevolent form of magic was referred to as seiğr. It was used to rob its victims of their sanity, their health, even their life, and generally to cause misfortune. This was a usually feminine form of magic that was also applied to the god Odin. Skills attributed to him are essentially the same as those identified in later tradition with the practitioners of magic, notably shape-changing, magic flight, and the use of spells to control the elements and conjure the dead.
      • troll cat — When stealing from her neighbors, the witch supposedly had help from a familiar, variously referred to as a troll cat, milk rabbit, troll ball, puck, etc.
      • whirlwind — In general, people regarded the whirlwind as the manifestation of the witch's or trollman's power. It was believed that the witch traveled in the whirlwind to inflict harm on people and cattle or to steal hay.
      • witches' sabbath — They were often held in churches, on mountaintops (such as Blåkollen or Blue Mountain), at a mill, etc. on nights such as Easter or Valborg. The Devil was there and often the total number of participants was thirteen. There would be other witches, as well as a new initiate (and also the spy who is reporting the occurrences). The Devil is a little gray man, wears black robes and is well-dressed, and has the Black Book. The witches had to pay homage to the Devil, renew pacts, write their names in the Black Book, and have the initiate take an oath. The baptism ceremony for the initiate involved blood, consumption of menstrual blood, feast of good / bad foods, eating of human infants, etc. At the sabbaths there was dance, music, a satanic orchestra, and orgies.

    Scandinavian Mythology & Folklore
    Scott T.S. Trimble   © 1996-1998