Recently I have had several request from my English speaking readers to write about the healing aspects of stav. I found that to be a very interesting challenge, it is hard to describe things in text; that as much as the martial arts needs to be shown and taught hands on. I decided to use the healing aspects of stav as a way to show the wonderful and coherent structure of stav. Stav has a very strong core, which I will describe in relation to the specific aspects of the healing techniques within the system. I will also mention a little about the philosophy within stav.
This is a massive text, but I am sure you will find it worthwhile; no matter if you have a specific interest in stav, or a more general interest of Norse mythology.
There are mainly six healing practices within stav; mått, ljosgalder, lokksejd, megin, myrkgalder and teinsejd. These aspects of stav has as far as I know never been described as thoroughly in a publicly available text before. This text is more or less source material to a Norse tradition. Personally I have mixed feelings about publishing this text, perhaps I give away too much?
To be able to help the reader to gain an understanding of this text I need to shortly describe the fundamentals of stav.
There are five classes within stav; tral, karl, herse, jarl and konge. In English they would be translated something along the lines of; the serf, the freemen, the warrior, the earl and the king. These classes are not seen as socio-economical, rather as different personalities that has different perspectives and ways to function in society. I will not go into details, but the tral is someone that is unsorted. The karl is a person who is able to support himself and supply for his family, a working man or a self-employed person. The herse is the type of person that would be suitable to be a policeman, military or working in the judicial system. The jarl is the philosopher, priest, or the healer- someone who is dependent on their mind. Easy described the karl is the hands and legs, the herse is the heart and the jarl is the head. We need a good balance between these classes to enable society to function at its best.
The tral and the king is somewhat extremes, the three main classes are dependent of each other while the king and the tral kind of operates independently. The difference is that the tral is dominated by society and is under its power- while the king is in control of his destiny. These two personalities are in one way the opposite sides of the same coin, and they can flip into each other occasionally.
These classes also correspond with the five elements of stav; fire, ice, air, earth and water. These elements are very important both when we work with understanding mythology or working with the esoteric perspective. It is essential to understand the classes and the elements to be able to understand the philosophy around the healing aspects of stav.
Stav is systematized around the 16 runes of the so called Scandinavian futhark, the letters used in pre Christian Scandinavia. Within stav the runes are more than just a method of writing text; all the runes are associated with the Norse deities, herbs, trees, classes, elements and much more. In practicality this means that no matter if it is about martial arts or healing; the runes will serve as memory aid to supply us with the knowledge needed.
One way to structure knowledge or information is to create a bind rune, all the bind runes within the stav tradition is created around the Hagl rune; the rune associated with the god Heimdall, who is an essential deity within in the stav tradition. Heimdall is seen as the deity of logic and education and intelligence, and he obviously represents the jarl class.
There are four traditional bind runes preserved within the stav tradition; one for each class except the tral. The bind rune associated with the jarl class is sometimes referred to as the healing bind rune, since healing is one of the aspects of the jarl personality.
Stav bind runes will have six runes, or in essence deities, constructed around the Hagl rune that carries the structure, all together there are seven runes in these bind runes if we count the carrying rune. Seven is a very important number within the stav lore- as important as number nine within mainstream Norse mythology.
I will describe the healing bind rune by explaining it clockwise, starting at the top.
The first rune is the rune called Thor, it is the rune associated with the deity by the same name. Within stav Thor is associated with the herse or warrior class. This is a very physical type of personality and they rely on their strength. The healing practices related to Thor is called “mått” which would be pronounced something like “mott” in English. Mått refer to the physical structure of the body, our joints and ligaments, bones and muscles. If you are familiar with the Norse myths, you will notice that the stories about Thor in most cases revolve around his physical capabilities and his strength.
When we work with mått we use massage to loosen up the muscles, and to relieve tension. We also use techniques to manipulate the spine and realign it if needed. The techniques within stav is quite easy to learn and would be very useful in an area where no modern doctors were available. To an extent stav is about being able to care for our family´s needs even when there is no outside assistance available.
The herse, or warrior, needs to be able to walk longer distances which is tough on the feet. Within the mått work there is a very practical foot massage which help to soften up the feet and to make the muscles loosen up and transport the blood easier. The feet are very essential for the whole body, within many homeopathic schools they work the feet to address health issues in other parts of the body. If one is physically fit enough, long walks are also a very good way to heal both the body and the mind.
The next rune is the Hagl rune, as I already mentioned it is the rune of Heimdall, who is a jarl deity. This rune represents the healing method of ljosgalder; light-galder.
Within stav the word galder has several layers of meaning, the general conception from Norse mythology is that galder refers to using the voice or to sing, and that it a sort of traditional way to perform magic. This is one of implementations of galder within stav; when we use our voice in the class varieties of the rune stances we refer to them the galder stances. But in the broader, and more stav specific meaning, galder also refers to the masculine teachings. In this case masculine does not necessary describe someone’s gender, we simply mean that it is a structured way to teach or learn. The feminine teachings are more intuitive; which I will come back to later on in this text. But generally speaking; runes, rune stances and bind runes are regarded as galder. These things can be taught from one person to another person, and it can be mastered through practice. The feminine practices can perhaps never be taught, or fully understood, if one does not have the appropriate personality to learn it.
Light refers to that it is performed in daylight, or in the open to be more specific. It is nothing secret and the subject of this sort of healing is fully aware of what is going on. It can be compared with modern psychotherapy in many ways.
One of the methods within light galder can be described as a sort of hypnosis or assisted meditation. The aim is to help the “subject” to connect with their unconscious levels and connect them with the conscious levels. It is a very efficient tool to help people to learn to know themselves better, I am fascinated of how well it works. As always within stav, this method flows between the psychological and intellectual and spiritual level.
Within stav there is also a tradition of laying runes, which can perhaps be compared with laying tarot cards. Any experienced stav practitioner should have their own set of wooden rune chips. There are other modern practices of laying runes, but stav has its own unique variety which I will not go into details about. Described in its simplest form we ask the person we are assisting to draw three runes out of a pouch; one rune for the past, one for the present and one for the future. Then we analyze the mythological associations of these runes and explain to the subject what we see; this is a good way to get someone to open up and starting to analyze their own situation.
During periods I have very actively worked with drawing runes by myself and it is very efficient, it helped me to clearly analyze the situation and work forward towards a goal. It is up to each one working with the runes to define for themselves if it is psychology or spiritual work; out of a stav perspective it is not important how you define it.
The rune stances are also connected to Heimdall according to stavs mythology; in essence the stances are multidimensional and contains many layers of knowledge and education. Amongst other things the stances teach us to align our body and find our outer and inner balance. The stances are meditative and teach deep breathing which helps the mind to let go of stress and anxiety. The stances are also helpful if someone needs to balance manic behavior or depression.
The next aspect of healing within stav is called lokksejd, sejd is known from the written sources about Norse mythology, and it is a shamanistic practice with the aim to go into a trance. As with galder, stav takes the understanding a bit further, the sejd perspective is a bit broader within stav, it is also regarded as a feminine approach to healing or magic. There are two aspects of sejd within stav; lokksejd and teinsejd.
The rune in this part of the bind rune is the rune mann, it is associated with Freya, she represents the feminine and the karl klass. Freya is the goddess of lokksejd, and according to the written sources she was the one who taught the highest god Oden how to do sejd.
When doing lokksejd one uses a vardlokk to be able to go into trance, this can be described as a very strange type of song that affects the mind. The meaning of the word lokk is multi-dimensional; it is to pull, or to lure, to attract or to tempt. The vard can be described as an entity or spirit, so one calls the helping spirits with the vardlokk. As always in stav and Norse mythology it is an interaction between feminine and masculine energies. Men usually do not as easy go into trance as females, therefor they are suitable to sing the vardlokk; the powerful masculine energy created will make it easier for a female to enter the trance.
Freya represents the unmarried young lady which has not carried any children yet, at this stage of life a female is suitable to work with lokksejd. Since lokksejd has strong effects on the mind, a woman that has a family to provide and care for is advised not to work with this method. Once the children have grown up and left the house she could actively pursue this path again.
The Lokksejd and vardlokk within stav has been transferred down through the generations from mother in law to daughter in law; the daughters of the family were not taught. The reasons for this is that the daughters left the family when they got married, stav was originally a closed family tradition and they did not want the knowledge to end up in other families.
Traditionally in Scandinavia, sejd was done by ladies referred to as Völvas, the Icelandic poem Völuspá is about a Völva seeing into the future. The Völvas traveled around the countryside and offered their services. The Völva was according to the sources able to predict the future or to be able to solve specific problems with the help of the spirit world. The Völva were highly regarded and seen as female priests, it is understood that most Völvas were older females. There have been many graves of Völvas found in Scandinavia, and they are usually quite easily identified since they contain objects associated with the Völva and sejd. Their graves usually contain a so called Völva stave, which is an iron rod that helped them in their work. Often the archeologists find herbs and plants amongst the grave goods that would help the Vövla in her shamanistic work.
There are modern neo pagans who do sejd, but they usually do sejd with the aid of a drum, which is something that is borrowed from the Saamis; the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia. There are not all that much specific information about sejd in the source material, but the sources tell us that sejd was performed with vardlokk. Stav is unique in the sense that we solely work with vardlokk and never use any drums. Stav-sejd is also unique since it is the only known version of sejd that claims being part of a living tradition.
I personally have great respect for lokksejd, I have seen what a deep impact it has on people. Personally I would advise people to be very careful with sejd, an experienced sejd practitioner told me that strange things start to happen after a while, things you cannot really explain nor control. I have noticed that some people do have a “happy-go-lucky” attitude towards sejd, and I do not really feel that it is appropriate.
The next rune in the bindrune is the ur rune, a rune connected with the god Vidar of the herse class. The health practice associated with Vidar is to work with megin.
The old Norse word megin means something like strength, power or might. The god Thor has his belt Megingjörð, when Thor wears the belt his already enormous strength is doubled. Within stav there is again a meaning that is not as clear in the written sources; megin is seen as the life force, comparable with the Asian concepts of Chi or Prana.
I have spoken with people initiated in magical traditions who see megin partly as our life force, but also as our magical potential. These people have the understanding that they have to build up their megin to be able to do magical work. They have the understanding that they can use other people’s megin if necessary, with other words; barrow or steal it from other people when they have the need. This would surely not be a very nice thing to do if the person was not aware of what was happening.
Out of a stav perspective we need to increase our own megin flow, and to rejuvenate our megin sources to stay healthy and strengthen our spiritual connections. The way to do this is amongst other things to do the rune stances, which according to the stav philosophy is the best way to accumulate megin. The megin concept within stav is very interesting, and one can say that the origin and flow of megin comes from the essence of the universe; to fully describe this philosophy in detail would really demand a long text of its own.
But the basic philosophy within stav is quite simple, when you learn to work with your own megin trough the practices of the system; you will also learn to direct your megin towards others. This can be done both with good intentions or with ill intentions.
If someone in our own proximity is wounded our ill, it is according to the philosophy within stav, possible to give from one´s own megin to the receiver. This is called “handpåläggning” in Swedish and “håndspåleggelse” in Norwegian. The English description seems to be “laying on of hands”. The wording is a bit problematic, because we do not actually touch the receiver. This type of healing has been practiced in the folk medicine throughout Scandinavia. Most of Scandinavia is quite rural and desolate, so up until fairly recently people in a lot of areas depended on wise elders when they became ill.
According to the stav philosophy we drain our own resources when giving megin to someone else, and therefore we must be able to regenerate our own megin. We may also exchange poor megin with the receiver, which simply means that if we are not able to regenerate our own megin and clear the negative energies out; we risk to become ill ourselves.
Megin flows through our body, and if the megin flow is blocked we are at the risk of getting ill, a good example is our backs. A lot of people sit too much these days, which weakens our backs and strengthens the wrong muscles in the body; as a result the megin flow is blocked. If we are not cautious we are at the risk of getting permanent problems over time.
I would advise the reader to go back to the initial bind rune and look again, notice how the rune of Thor and the ur rune shares the main stave of the bind rune; mått and megin feeds each other, when we gain physical strength it will increase our megin. When we increase our megin it will benefit our mått. Both deities associated with these runes are herse gods, and the herse is the type of personality that both needs physical and inner strength. Personally I would instinctively connect megin with Thor and mått with Vidar, which is the opposite from the idea within stav; but these two gods are very closely related so I suspect that they both to an extent cover both mått and megin. The healing bind rune are very thought through, which will become very apparent later in this text.
Modern science is for good reasons very skeptical about concepts like megin and practices like “laying on of hands”. But personally I really like the philosophical approach towards life that comes with the idea of megin; we are not separated from universe and our life force stems from outside our own bodies. It is also a very emphatic philosophy that we can share our own life force with other people who are in the need for it; if there is anything this world needs it is empathy.
The next rune is the rune ås, the rune of Oden. Oden is the king of the gods and the god of the kings. But the idea of the king is not comparable with the modern concept of inheritance. Pre Christian Scandinavia was a meritocracy in many ways, the king was elected and was thought to carry good spiritual capabilities. He was seen as the link between the gods and the people and he was also a spiritual leader who actively engaged in religious practices. The king was expected to hold knowledge and insights that other people lacked, and the king was supposed to be able to interact with the gods and to be able to understand and interpret their will. According to some scholars the abilities of the king may have been put to the test before he was elected.
The healing practices of the ås rune and Oden refers to “myrkgalder”, or dark galder. Myrkgalder is performed in the cover of darkness, those who work with dark galder will not reveal what they are doing or the intentions, perhaps they will not even disclose that something actually has been done.
To a degree this is the flip side of ljosgalder; ljosgalder and myrkgalder shares the same stave in the healing bind rune. Someone that is experienced in myrkgalder and that has bad intentions may be very dangerous for other people. But using things like this with ill intent towards others tend to rub off at the sender. If one reads the Norse myths one will notice that the gods who engage in aggressive magic quite often pays a high price for it.
I recently read an academic paper were the author noticed that Heimdall, just as Oden, were able to predict the future; but this did not seem to backlash on Heimdall as it does to Oden. The scholar couldn’t quite understand why it did not affect Heimdall. The difference is that Heimdall does not interfere, he just analyzes and explains what will happen if the gods peruse a specific path. Oden on the other hand interferes and manipulates how things unfold. This is also one of the differences between dark and light galder, when using light galder we only analyze the situation, but we do not manipulate it.
Even though myrkgalder sounds a bit unpleasant it can be used with good intentions, sometimes people are not in a mental stage where you can reason with them at the level needed to work with ljosgalder. Initially we can instead work with myrkgalder to get them back on track, once they are getting a bit reasonable again we can start to help them with ljosgalder.
Since this text works with a bind rune I would like to clarify that bind runes in essence are galder, but it depends on how we use them if it will be categorized as light- or dark galder. There are parallels to the stav bind runes, the most striking ones are the galdrastafir of Iceland. These magical staves were used up to modern times and there were many varieties; some helped to win in court, some helped in matters of love and some helped in battle. The Icelandic glima wrestlers kept staves in their shoes to help them win their bouts. Anyone that studies stav deeply would be able to construct their own bind runes for specific purposes.
As I previously mentioned; galder is also a way to use our voice, partly it is taught trough the stances. But there are also galder in form of verse that have been used in Scandinavia up until modern times. This form of galder are not really used within the stav practice of today. But I still find it relevant to mention it, because it gives a broader understanding of the concept of galder. These galders consisted of short magical poems with the aim to heal broken bones or stop bleedings, or perhaps to get back at an enemy.
The oldest galders that I am aware of are the two Merseburg galders, they stem from 800 AD in Germany. The first one seems to be battle oriented with the aim to free men that has mentally frozen on the battlefield. The second one calls for Wotan (Oden) and other deities to heal a broken leg of a horse. Versions of this galder has been passed down in Scandinavia.
Out of stavs definition these types of galders would be regarded as myrkgalder- they were secret and transferred from one generation to another. They were not disclosed until they were no longer seen as useful and younger generations could tell researchers what their elders did.
The following galder was written down in Sörmland, the Swedish province where I am located, sometime around 1860-1870; the aim is to heal an injured horse. Even though they are a thousand years apart, this galder is almost identical with the second Merseburg galder.
The galder in Swedish:
Dåve red över vattubro, så kom han in i Tive skog; Hästen snava mot en rot och vrickade sin ena fot. Gångande kom Oden:
-Jag skall bota dig för vred, kött i kött, ben i ben, jag skall sätta led mot led, och din fot skall aldrig sveda eller värka mer!
Loosely translated by myself:
Dove rode on a bridge over water, and entered the forest of Tive. The horse trampled over a root and sprained a foot. Oden came walking:
-I will heal your sprain, flesh to flesh, bone to bone, I will put joint to joint; your foot shall never cause you pain nor suffering again.
The above galder is actually a good example of old Norse metric verse, and an example of the longevity of the Norse deities in Scandinavia. The forest of Tive could perhaps refer to Tiveden. Tiveden is regarded as a sacred forest, and the name has been interpreted either as the forest of Tyr or the forest of the gods.
Within stav; myrkgalder comes with an unwritten etic code, we do not mess with people without reason. The spiritual and psychological sides of stav provides the stavgode with powerful tools, which comes with a great responsibility.
The next rune in the bindrune is the björk rune- which belongs to the goddess Frigg. Frigg is the wife of Oden and she represents the matron of the house. The specific form of healing related to Frigg is Teinsejd, which refers to healing through herbs and remedies.
Tein means spruce or twig in Norwegian, the word occurs in other aspects of stav too. The word tein is quite interesting in relation to Frigg. Before the spinning wheel were introduced in Scandinavia the tool used was called a håndtein in Norwegian; a spindle in English. The spindle is associated with Frigg in the sources too, and a maternal family line in Scandinavia is referred to as the “spindle side” of the family.
In the stav tradition the mother of the family was responsible to collect and refine the herbs. She was the one that should be educated and have knowledge about herbs and remedies. First of all, the herbs are used proactively, if one eats a balanced and nutritious diet one is more likely to stay healthy, especially during the winter months. Scandinavian winter is not forgiving unless you have a super market close by, which people generally did not have seventy years ago. Ivar Hafskjold has told that his mother spent most of the year collecting berries and herbs and other things to provide the family with a nutritious diet during the winter.
The herbal cycle of stav follow the year cycle, simply put, things that are rich of vitamins are collected early in the year and eaten fresh when the winter supplies are emptied. During the summer and autumn plants and berries are collected that can be processed and stored for the coming winter. There are also special remedies and tinctures to address specific health issues as a cold or cough etc.
I have already mentioned a few times that all the runes within stav are associated with deities, elements, classes, herbs and trees, amongst other things. The herbs and tree associations give a good core for working with the herbal lore of stav. Those who are interested in magic would also benefit from knowing these associations. It is known that trees played a very important role in the pre Christian Scandinavian cult. Many of the places of worship were concentrated around a “vard tree”, and many of the places of cult were enclosed by specific types of trees.
The problematic thing is that these herbs are Scandinavian and a lot of them are not found in other climates. But notice how this bind rune is constructed- sejd and tein sejd shares the same stave. Partly this is because they are both feminine practices, and Frigg and Freya is closely connected in Norse mythology. But as with mått and megin and galder; lokksejd and teinsejd feed each other! The specific knowledge about the different plants is regarded to stem from sejd. If they traditionally encountered an illness that they did not know how to heal; lokksejd would have been the way to try to find knowledge about what to do, or which plants to use. But it also goes the other way; knowledge about teinsejd can be very beneficial if one wants to explore lokksejd.
It has taken me more than five thousand words to describe the knowledge encoded and concentrated within one single bind rune; that consists of seven runes! Still this text is just an introduction, and there is so much more I could write about this topic. Written text is very crude compared to illustrating knowledge with runes, the geniality of stav is that a lot of information can be condensed into a single graphical image.
It would take a weekend to introduce a student to the methods described within this text, then it would take a few years to become comfortable working with these methods. But it would take a lifetime for someone to really master all of these techniques. Once one is fairly comfortable with the stav perspective the next step is to investigate other traditions, and to compare the knowledge of stav with the knowledge of similar Scandinavian practices. Stav is firmly rooted in the Norse tradition and I have personally found a deeper understanding of stav by studying Norse mythology and tradition.
As a byproduct of this text I hope that the reader gets an understanding of the systematic approach of stav. I also hope the reader get a feeling of the nature of the bind runes; how they flow clockwise- like the year cycle. But also how the bind rune pair runes together and groups the runes in triples, each rune will stand next to two other runes. All these aspects encoded within the bind runes; circular movement, pairs, opposites, and triples are essential within Norse mythology. Someone who really are able to apply this on the runes and mythology have understood a great deal of Norse mysticism.