Welcome to SPACE, our adult continuing education program which offers interactive monthly courses for personal enrichment! Learn more here.

Dr. Irina Manea

A curious mind and history buff

Irina-Maria is a Romanian living in Germany with a flair for Nordic cultures. She has a PhD in Norse mythology from the University of Bucharest, and her main research interests comprise the history of Vikings, magic and the supernatural in the Norse world, legendary sagas and sagas of the Icelanders. [see full bio...]

Current and Upcoming Modules

Highlighted Modules

All Modules

Viking Hogwarts: The World Of Old Norse Sorcery

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Low intensity
This is the Landing Page for Prof. Irina Manea's Viking Hogwarts series exploring The World of Old Norse Sorcery.

Module 1 we will be critically exploring the sources for such powerful practices, the vocabulary of sorcery, as well as attempting to enter the Viking soul in search of its logic and manifestations through everyday witchcraft, while confronting the great hindrances in the study of an elusive phenomenon.

Module 2 takes a closer look at the most violent practices in Old Norse Sorcery. Beyond domestic practices, sorcerous aggression manifested e.g. through driving the enemy insane, sending spirits to attack, causing misfortune and on a much broader scale on the battlefield. The elements of sorcery buried deep in the often problematic sources might help us better understand the potential mindset of pre-Christian Northern peoples and illuminated the often too tightly defined warrior identity.

Module 3 attempts to integrate the evidence from literary and archaeological sources into a broader context of shamanistic northern religions.

Viking Hogwarts: The World Of Old Norse Sorcery 1

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Low intensity
Whereas figures like Odin, Thor or Freyr dominate the Viking mythical landscape, Norse spirituality goes way beyond the texts of the Poetic Edda. For the Viking mind, spirituality would have infused all aspects of daily life in a fascinating mix of sacred and profane.

Paganism was most likely never a unified system of belief, and may have been much more complex and diverse than our current sources can let us know. Beyond semi-structured beliefs, we also encounter more practical forms actively trying to influence the environment – sorcery, most often referred to as seidr, a collective term to designate soothsaying, divination, healing, controlling weather, battle magic and much more.

In this module we will be critically exploring the sources for such powerful practices, the vocabulary of sorcery, as well as attempting to enter the Viking soul in search of its logic and manifestations through everyday witchcraft, while confronting the great hindrances in the study of an elusive phenomenon.

Why is Odin a god of sorcery? Who performed magic in Viking times? Was it gendered? Was sexuality involved? What did magic reveal, and how was it perceived? Put your name into the goblet of mead and let‘s get started.

Viking Hogwarts: The World of Old Norse Sorcery 2

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Low intensity
After having discussed the complex phenomenon of seidr magic in module 1, we are going to have a closer look at its most violent practices. Beyond domestic practices, sorcerous aggression manifested e.g. through driving the enemy insane, sending spirits to attack, causing misfortune and on a much broader scale on the battlefield.

A clear projection of supernatural intervention is offered by Odin‘s servants the valkyrjur, but also shapeshifting berserkers caught by ritual frenzy, with powers stemming from Odin himself, “The Terrible” in his sorcerous role. Battle spells also seem to have been preserved as literary remnants with a chance at authenticity derived from ideas in older poems, like ideas about war-fettering, invulnerability or disguise.

These elements of sorcery buried deep in the often problematic sources might help us better understand the potential mindset of pre-Christian Northern peoples and illuminated the often too tightly defined warrior identity.

Viking Hogwarts: The World Of Old Norse Sorcery 3

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Low intensity
In the third part of the module series on Norse magic, we will attempt to integrate the evidence from literary and archaeological sources into a broader context of shamanistic northern religions.

In the Icelandic sagas in particular, there are indications about the operative magical practices of the Sámi - one famous queen, Gunnhild (the wife of Eric Bloodaxe) is even said to have travelled to the Finns to get sorcerous instruction. In Norse myth, cosmology dwells on the world pillar, the ash tree Yggdrassil, while Odin's horse Sleipnir has the power to cross between worlds.

Shamanism as a means of accessing supernatural forces through ecstasy may have enhanced the Viking mind with challenging ideas about gender, shapeshifting, or violence that are well worth our attention.
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].