The Seið-men of Warlock-Reef

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The Saga of Ólaf Trygvason in Snorri Sturluson´s “Heimskringla” is an interesting medieval source to the Christening process in Norway during the late 9th century. Ólaf Trygvasson was not the first king who tried to convert the Norwegians, nor was he the last.

  • The first to try was Hákon the Good (920-961) who sought to convince his countrymen through deeds and friendship.
  • Then came Ólaf Trygvasson  (961-1000), who, according to the saga about him, appears to have used a great deal of Christian magic! When the people had gathered their best men to argue with the king at Parliament against the new religion, each one of them suffered from hoarseness and coughing and was not able to speak up. This way, Ólaf Trygvasson got his way… Add to that a severe persecution of all men who practiced witchcraft, an example of which I shall render below.
  • The last and most successful – and most ruthless one was Ólaf Haraldson (995-1030), known in his time as Ólaf Dígri (“The Huge”), but after his death during a battle against the pagan opposition as “Ólaf the Holy“.

But let us return to Ólaf Trygvason, and take a moment of silence for his distant relative, Eyvind Kelda and his men.  The following is an exerpt from  the Saga of Ólaf Trygvason by Snorri Sturluson.

Chapter 69: Seiðmanna brenna – “The Burning of the Seið-men”

Hugo Hamilton (1802-1871) Hall of the Seven Kings Burned by Ingjald

Ólaf King traveled to Tunsberg, and there he held Parliament again. He spoke at the Parliament, and said that anyone who were found guilty of performing galdr [incantations, spell-songs] or other deeds of witchcraft, or if they were seið-men, they should leave the country altogether, all of them. Then the king let search for such people in the neighboring counties, and invited them all to come to him.

They came there, and with them was a man named Eyvind Kelda (“Kettle”), and he was the grandson of Ragnvald Rettilbeini, son of Harald Hárfagri [by a Sámi mother. Ragnvald had also been a seið-man]. Eyvind was a seið-man and knew and awful lot of witchcraft.

Ólaf King let all these men gather in a hall, and he catered well to them, made a banquet for them, and let them have a lot of strong drink. And when they were thoroughly drunk, Ólaf let the hall burn, and the hall burnt with all the people inside there, except Eyvind Kelda, he managed to escape through the roof smoke-hole, and escaped.

When he had come far away, he met some people on the road, who were on their way to see the king. Eyvind asked them to tell the king this, that Eyvind Kelda had escaped the fire, and that he never again should submit to his power, and that he was going to do as before with his witchcraft. When these men came to Ólaf King, they told him what Eyvind had told them to say. The king said it was a bad thing that Eyvind was still alive.

Chapter 70: Dráp Eyvindar keldu – “The Murder of Eyvind Kelda”

1 Seidmennene-på-Skrattaskjær-1

The Seidmen of Skrattasker by Halfdan Egelius

As spring came, Ólaf went west into Víkinn (the Oslo fjord) and visited his estates, and he sent for all the people in Víkinn to let them know that he wanted to have an army out the next summer for the purpose of going to the northern parts of the country (Norway). Then he went to the north of Agder. When there was the long fast (Easter), he went north into Rogaland and came to Avaldsnes at Karmøy on Easter eve. There was prepared an Easter Banquet for him, and he had nearly 300 men.

The same night, Eyvind Kelda came there to the island, he had a longship and a full crew; all of them were just Seið-men and other sorts of troll-folks. Eyvind and his army disembarked and went ashore a long way from the ship, and started to perform their Seið.

Eyvind made his men invisible, and made such a black fog that the king and his people could not see them.

But when they came up to the farm at Avaldsnes, there was bright day all of a sudden. Then it turned out differently from what Eyvind had imagined; this darkness, which he had created with his magical cunning, clouded his own view and that of his comrades, so that they could not see more with their eyes than they saw with their necks.

The guardsmen of the king saw them, and they could not fathom what sort of people these were. The King was alerted, and he and his retinue got up and dressed. Then the king could see Eyvind and his men walking about there, and told his men that they should take weapons and go and find out what sort of people these were. The kingsmen recognized Euvind, and they captured him and all the others, and led them to the king. So Eyvind had to explain how everything had happened for him.

Afterwards, the king let all of them gather and placed them out on a reef that was known to be completely flooded with the high tide, and he bound them there. This way, Eyvind and all his men lost their lives.

Ever since, that reef has been known as Warlock Reef [Skrattasker].

 

 

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