By Eldar Heide
Old Norse Religion in Long-Term Perspectives: Origins, Changes, and Interactions, edited by Anders Andrén, Kristina Jennbert et al. (Lund, 2006)
Introduction: This paper argues that seiðr was about spinning a mind emissary, sending forth such a spun emissary, or attracting things or doing other things with such a mind emissary. Further arguments for this view can be read in my dissertation on gand(r). (Gand, seid og åndevind.)
The etymology of seiðr is disputed, but it is clear that etymological equivalents are known from Old High German and Old English. Those equivalent words mean ‘cord, string’ and ‘snare, cord, halter’. The skaldic poetry also has an example of seiðr in the meaning ‘cord’ or ‘girth, girdle’. A straightforward etymology for seiðr could then be ‘snare, cord, string, halter’. The problem is what sense this would make. One suggestion has been that seiðr was about binding, but binding is not very characteristic of seiðr.