The followers of Heathenism, the spiritual path based on Nordic and Germanic traditions, must cope with a dearth of primary resources and written records. Much of the lore of the ancient oral tradition was lost and that which was preserved was sometimes doctored by the Christian clerics who wrote it down. Heathens must work to reclaim missing aspects of the tradition. This is a two-pronged effort. The first involves detailed examinations of the primary resources that are intact; the second involves non-linear information gathering through meditation and trance-work that are a part of seidr (Nordic magical practices).

The author has been practicing the Nordic path for many years. Her long association and solid grounding is evident throughout the book. The text shares her efforts to expand the knowledge about Frigg and her twelve Asynjur, her female coterie of divine assistants, about whom little is known. The list of Asynjur goddesses is given in Snorri Sturleson's Gylfagining. Some of these goddesses appear in various legends while others are obscure.

In Part I: Looking for a Goddess [Discovering Mythology and Understanding Tranceworking], Karlsdóttir examines the challenges of reclaiming a fragmentary spiritual tradition. Both written resources and non-linear information sources can be unreliable. She recommends thorough research before delving into trance-work. Research is the jumping-off point for inner explorations. Chapters 3 through 6 offer detailed descriptions and instructions on performing trance-work. It's an excellent guide to these methods, in part because the author admits that she faced some initial difficulties in learning how to do it. Her techniques can be used to plumb for knowledge in any spiritual tradition. It is perhaps the clearest explanation of this method I've ever seen; the book is worth the price just to obtain this section alone.

Part II: Frigg and Her Women [The Lore and Trance Methods for Finding the Goddesses] shares an impressive variety of information about these goddesses. Karlsdóttir offers a description of several Northern goddesses that are close kin to Frigg, Odin's wife, who is sometimes conflated with Freya. They are quite separate but do share some overlapping skills and duties. There are overviews of Frau Holda, Berchte, the White Lady, Huldra, the older goddesses Jord and Nerthus, and the Celtic variation Brigid. Their divine concerns are enumerated: cattle and domesticated stock; farming lore connected with harvesting and using plant produce; brewing and baking; spinning and weaving; magic, rituals, and soothsaying; love and marriage; childbirth and healing; social harmony and justice. Some have a connection to the Yule season, the gathering of souls, and the souls of the unborn. Their divine prerogatives concern every aspect of women's lives in the far north and their critical responsibilities for ensuring continued survival in regions with limited growing seasons and harsh winters.

Chapters 9 through 20 present what Karlsdóttir has learned about the twelve Asynjur through a combination of solid research and trance-work. The special role of every goddess is identified with distinctions in what appear to be overlapping responsibilities. Each chapter includes an overview based on research followed by a script derived from trance-work. This is followed by additional insights, advice on performing a ritual to connect with the goddess, and an invocation.

The book's end matter includes three appendices (translations of three related tales), end notes (citations of resources used in the text), a glossary of terms, a glossary of runes, a bibliography, and an index.

“Norse Goddess Magic” is a pleasure to read because it has so many literary virtues. Karlsdóttir presents careful and comprehensive research. When she shares the fruits of her magical explorations, she does so in a generous, non-presumptuous manner. She keeps the floor open for unique experiences and interpretations of the material. The information is extremely well-organized, thoughtful, and skillfully written.

This is a high-quality text on a subject of great value to people (particularly women) who have embraced the Northern spiritual path. It is also of value to people seeking clear instructions on trance-work, and to those seeking additional information on lore relating to Nordic goddesses. The bibliography offers a superb variety of high-quality resources. The writing is sincere and direct, and does an admirable job of informing and enriching the reader. I wish all books on the topic of Northern traditions were this good! Very highly recommended.

Review by Elizabeth Hazel

Author: Alice Karlsdóttir
Destiny Books (Inner Traditions) 2015, 240 pg, $16.95 pb
(Originally published as “Magic of the Norse Goddesses” by Runa-Raven Press, 2003)

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