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Arguing with Magick

Forums ► Norse Paganism ► Arguing with Magick
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Arguing with Magick
By: Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 1

Ive recently been studying some interesting Norse concepts, and came across something rather interesting. Arguing, which would involve magick, called Flyting. And yelling with magick, known as Scolding. These are older ideas, and not commonly seen or used anymore, but I think its a curious thing none the less.

Its important to note how arguing and yelling and screaming can be related to magick. In Norse practices, breath is seen as a very divine and sacred thing. Norse magick as two main workings: Seidhr (more closely related to shamanism) and Galdr. Galdr is, essentially, verbal incantation. While most commonly Galdr involves the runes, it is (at its most basic level) singing and chanting spellwork. Singing became a huge part of a magickal practice in the Northern tradition. Volvas, who were seeresses, had special songs they would sing to get themselves into trances. Singing was done for invocations, banishing, summoning, protection, cursing, etc.

So. To tie arguing and yelling with magick:

Traditionally, flyting is an exchange of insults and retorts between two opposing parties. While arguing through poetic verses may not seem very magickal to some people, flyting was regarded the same as any other Norse ritual would be, and performed in similar manners. When two parties opposed each other, they would gather around (normally it is said to be in a hall of some sort where feasts are) and verbally assault each other, taking turns, and using poetic structures to build their arguments. During the arguments, each party would provoke the other by claiming the other party was cowardly, perverse, weak, and so on. The idea behind this stems from the Norse thought that each person has orlog which is a combination of a persons/families honor, luck, name and so on. And that within a community there is frith, a type of peaceful kinship, that connects everyone. While arguing, a person aims to skillfully and poetically bash the other persons orlog, frith and thus affect their wyrd, the magickal concept of fate, in a negative way. Galdr is used, mainly in the form of verbal Nids- or verbal curses- to string magick into the argument. While in the midst of arguing, the two parties may begin invocations, calling upon specific enties (which is its own subset of galdr known as gro-galdr) channeling or otherwise trying to upset the wights in order to provoke them into being angered at the other person, and send ill-will their way. Nids were not taken lightly in Norse tradition. Those types of curses were viewed as a heavy form of magick, and carried a lot of weight. A nid is seen as the ultimate insult and not used often unless in a serious circumstance. A person often channels their anger and such into the verbal magick of galdr, making a nid a very hateful thing.

Scolding, while it can be a separate deal, often comes into play in the middle of flyting. Scolding involves yelling, and screaming at a person, to achieve some magickal effect. In its most basic form, scolding is getting in someones face and shouting derogatory terms at them. It is thought that a person who is scolding someone uses their will, intent, energy and magick (whether it be in the form of seidhr, or more likely galdr) to reach this effect. It was used for banishing spirits and entities, for breaking the concentration and energy of a person, prevent them from any sort of magickal working against them, or to bewilder the other person and thus put them in an altered state of consciousness. When scolding was used outside of a fight, the purpose was for someone to work themselves up into a trance- as is not uncommon to see in some people who practice berserking, or war trances. Yelling when used similarly to breathing/singing techniques from Northern Tradition can help a person get in the needed mind-set for berserking, and those frenzied trances.

Certain words, with negative and sometimes magickal implications, were often used in these fights. Though I wont go into listing them all out for you, as some of them are so harsh and vulgar in description that it isnt allowed, I will give you an idea of how serious some of them are. Ergi is one word which provokes serious violent and anger when used. It implies unmanliness for males and promiscuity for females, to a high degree, which was directly insulting a persons orlog and their honor. Nithing was another term which was used to describe someone without honor who earned the title of villain. Three words in particular were seen as so degrading and bad that it was actually lawful for a person to kill whoever called them by these names, and it was socially expected that if ever called by one of these three names you would immediately take violent action (whether it be physically attack a person, or setting up nidstangs and verbal curses) to reconcile it. If a person did not do this, they were often shunned by the community and seen as weak. It used to be believed that these words carried a magickal significance, and that a person who ended up being deemed worthy of such a word was in the contempt of the wights, deities, and so on, and that when it came to magick and their orlogy/word, they were ill-fated and would not be able to work with the Gods, nor perform magick.

You can see examples of flyting and scolding throughout Norse literature. While there is a story of Thor flyting with what is believed to be Odin in disguise, the most notorious flyting to occur is known as Lokasenna. This story revolves around Loki essentially crashing a party where the other Gods were, and taking turns verbally assaulting each one there. Just as is traditionally done, when flyting with the other Gods, Loki begins to bash their orlog and otherwise taunt them, trying to alter them in such a way as to provoke them to fight as honor usually demands- though they do not, mainly for the fact that it would have broken the traditional honor a person is supposed to show when being hosted somewhere by someone else- as they were all in a Hall. By his aggressive taunting, he successful broke the frith between himself and the other Gods, which had an effect on the wyrd of them all. (And though he did get bound at the end, I think its safe to say, if you read the Lokasenna, Loki clearly one that flyting).

So essentially what you have is individuals who poetically argued using verbal incantations and curses. I thought it was a really interesting concept, so I thought I would share.

Some extra reading on the matter regarding names and implications:


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Re: Arguing with Magick
By: / Novice
Post # 2
That is quite intersting, especialy the section on flyting. The flyting reminds me of Shakespearian plays where the charcters would exchange witty insults in order to provoke the other or to degrade the other's honor. Do you think that perhaps Shakespear used this type of exchange due to insperation from Nordic Flyting?
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Re: Arguing with Magick
By: Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 3

I would definitely think he got influence from it. Flyting comes from other cultures as well, though I'm not sure if theirs incorporated magick or was simply poetic arguing. It's seen in a lot of Anglo-Saxon and English literature. There's a form of flyting done by the Scots that was a simply a verbal contest, from my understanding, and it was quite popular sport: The Flyting of Dumbar and Kennedie is probably the most notorious example of this. But I think a lot of drama and theatrics incorporate this element of poetic arguments into them.

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Re: Arguing with Magick
By: / Knowledgeable
Post # 4
Oh Gods, thank you! You always write awesome things, but this is totally one of my favorites.

And you know, all of this really makes a lot of sense. Even if you put all magick and metaphysics aside for a moment, articulate and well-formed arguments and insults can trigger some very big changes in the minds and emotions of both the insulter and the insulted. While we don't tend to think of it much with English, the Nords understood the power that spoken word can have upon people and their fate. With that in mind, Flyting and Scolding could be viewed as actual attacks aimed at the karma and fate of a person.

... And as one friend of Loki to another, I cannot help but point out that you just wrote an article about thu'ums.
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Re: Arguing with Magick
By: Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 5

Glad you liked it!

I personally do view this as an attack aimed directly at the fate and karma of a person. Wyrd is this idea of a persons fate/karma and such that is often represented as a web, and each node on the web is a person, event, and so on. Laying on top of the web is Orlog, the persons honor and luck and such, which is why it is called the "primal layer". To aim something with the intent of disrupting any of that would be to hope to cause some sort of difference in that persons fate directly, or indirectly through the means of upsetting their orlog. Calling on the wights and cursing them as such indirectly was thought to cause ripples in these two things, altering the eventual outcomes of a person. There is actually a form of divination which revolves around "reading" a persons Wyrd/Orlog, and they often describe "knots" in it as being events like this where it has been tampered with, or has had some negative blow effecting it (though I'll get into that later on too).

And yes, Lokison, it does appear to be an article on Thu'ums. :P It was very very interesting to me.

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Re: Arguing with Magick
By: / Novice
Post # 6
Can you perhaps repost the article on Loki, or direct me there? I find Mythology of any sort very intriguing.
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Re: Arguing with Magick
By: / Beginner
Post # 7
When I read the title for this article, I found the thought of arguing with magick to be nonsense. Then, I read it and now I feel silly. I find it to be very intriguing, to say the least. Of course, the whole Norse culture is interesting...and I learned something new today, which is always nice. Thank you very much for posting this!
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Re: Arguing with Magick
By: Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 8

The concept did seem strange to me at first as well! I know many fantasy games and such have incorporated this idea into them, such as Skyrim and the like- but to see where they get the concepts from is quite a neat thing!

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Re: Arguing with Magick
By: Moderator / Knowledgeable
Post # 9
This thread has been moved to Heathenism from Misc Topics.
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