1. A völva is a type of shaman/seeress within the Norse religion.
2. In old Norse, ‘völva’ means ‘wand carrier’.
3. Another name for völvas, ‘fjölkunning’, means ‘plenty of knowing’.
4. Völvas practise shamanism, sorcery and prophecy.
5. Historical and mythological depictions show that völvas were held in such high esteem that even Odin himself consulted one, to learn the fates of the gods.
6. In Norse society, a völva was an elderly woman who travelled widely, freely and alone, and was usually summoned during times of crisis – for a rather large fee!
7. Völvas were often considered to have greater authority than aristocratic women, and sometimes even men.
8. Important women would give up their thrones to show respect for a völva.
9. Archaeologists have discovered wands in 40 graves, along with valuable grave offerings, showing that völvas belonged to the highest level of Scandinavian society.
10. Some men called themselves völvas, but during the christianization of Norway King Olaf Trygvasson ordered that any who were found should be tortured and killed, because they were dealing with a female practise. This offence was called ‘ergi’ (‘unmanly’).
11. The völvas finally disappeared from public view and knowledge in the 10th century, when the Roman Catholic church had laws enacted against them. But many women claim to be völvas now, with the resurgence of pagan/heathen traditions.