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Learning Magic in the Sagas

Learning Magic in the Sagas

By Stephen Mitchell

Paper given at the 11th International Saga Conference (2000)

Introduction: The image of magic spells being taught by more seasoned practitioners to others eager to learn them comports well with what can be deduced about the actual practice of witchcraft and magic in medieval Scandinavia. For example, at the conclusion of that most remarkable document on love magic, jealousy and sexual intrigue from ca. 1325, De quadam lapsa in hæresin Ragnhilda Tregagaas, Ragnhildr tregagás of Bergen claims that the incantation and performative magic she uses against her erstwhile lover are ones she learned in her youth from Solli Sukk. In a similar case from Sweden in 1471, a witch in Arboga referred to in the surviving records as galna kadhrin ‘Crazy Katherine’ instructs Birgitta Andirssadotthir on how to prevent her lover from pursuing another woman. Another late 15th-century Swedish case likewise describes how Margit halffstop says that she learned from another woman, Anna finszka, the spell by which she could bewitch a man from a distance.

Click here to read this article from the 11th International Saga Conference

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