Historical knowledge

A seeress from Fyrkat?

Perhaps she gave the warriors and inhabitants of Fyrkat henbane prior to an important battle, to give them strength and courage?

Sometimes very unusual archaeological finds are made. For example, there is the very strange Viking woman’s grave, which was found at the ring fortress of “Fyrkat”, near Hobro, in Denmark. Amongst the total of around 30 graves from the site, it stands out because of its unusual grave goods. It was the grave of a female, who may have been a seeress.

At the time of burial the woman was dressed in fine blue and red clothes adorned with gold thread – which had royal status. She was buried, like the richest women, in the body of a horse-drawn carriage. She had been given ordinary female gifts, like spindle whorls and scissors. But there were also exotic goods from foreign parts, indicating that the woman must have been wealthy. She wore toe rings of silver, which have not been found elsewhere in Scandinavia. In addition, two bronze bowls were also found in the grave, which may have come all the way from Central Asia.

Amongst the unusual objects, were a metal wand and seeds from the poisonous henbane plant. These two accessories are associated with the seeress. The most mysterious object is the metal wand. It has partially disintegrated after the long period in the ground. It consists of an iron stick with bronze fittings. This may have been a wand associated with the practice of magic – a völva’s wand or magic wand.    
The henbane seeds were found in a small purse. If these seeds are thrown onto a fire, a mildly hallucinogenic smoke is produced. Taken in in the right quantities, they can produce hallucinations and euphoric states. Henbane was often used by the witches of later periods. It could be used as a “witch’s salve” to produce a psychedelic effect, if the magic practitioners rubbed it into their skin. Did the woman from Fyrkat do this? In her belt buckle was white lead, which was sometimes used as an ingredient in skin ointment. 

Other objects in the grave add further support to the argument that the woman was a seeress. At her feet was a box containing various items, such as owl pellets, and small bird and mammal bones. Apart from these, there was a silver amulet shaped like a chair – the seid or magic chair?

Share this page