Draugablíkk

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The lost art of Varðlokkur, shamanic titles, and the forces of inner nature

January 27, 2021 — The spirit-world eventually breaks anyone capable of entering. But those who return become strong — especially at the broken places. What most people today refer to as “shamanism” is a spiritual discipline involving a skilled practitioner to interact with the forces of nature and the spirit world. Usually, the goal is to direct otherworldy energies into the physical world, such as bringing forth an entity for healing or protection. In some left-hand path cases, which is term for sinister “black” magic, the forces beyond the veil are used for darker purposes.

DISCLAIMER: We advise carefulness when dabbling in the arts of the ancients. Without skill and practice, controlling what might be evoked in a chance ritual is impossible — luring entities into this world the wrong way will always bring darkness and chaos upon the invoker, especially since spirit world entities likes to attach themselves to people’s souls. And that goes for all entities — well-natured, evil, and the majority of otherworldy essences stuck in-between the “good versus evil” divide. Also, without proper skill and a fair bit of practice, you will have no idea how to control what is being evoked should you be “successful.” If you are not careful — whatever comes out will turn on you without hesitation and attempt to attach itself to feed on your persona and energy fields.

The artwork above shows a Scythian healer — an “Arnlokkur” or a “gam” — entering a trance-like state as he calls upon a bald eagle travel companion to seek aid in the higher realms of the spirit world (intriguingly, one of Óðinn’s many names/kennings was Arnhǫfði, meaning “eagle chieftain” or “eagle-head”.) Shamans of ages past used various substances to enter deep, mental states — perhaps not entirely unlike Viking Age berserkers (“berserkir” in Old Norse) who many believe ate mind-altering mushrooms before they went roaringly into battle. There are many theories on how shamans might have influenced themselves to reach higher states of consciousness. Both trained scholars and self-taught historians agree that one of the shamanic “substances” used around the northern hemisphere was “soma,” a common beverage mentioned in several Vedic sources. Soma was a mix of honey, herbs, and possibly also mushrooms, although no exact recipe has been found yet (being a honey-based drink, it is inevitable to reason that soma shared some similarities with mead.)

Fortunetellers, shamans, and seers were known by “titles” to separate their distinct practices. Scythian-like shamans known as gam and enaree were concentrated in the Western parts Russia, along the Volga River, and also near the Black Sea shores of Ukraine. Intriguingly, the ruling Scythian clan were allied with multiple Uralic tribes, who surely also practiced shamanism. For example, Graceo-Roman historians Herodotus and Pliny the Elder both mention a tribe by the name of Budini who some scholars have suggested to be ancestors of the Finns or the Mordvins or Permians. To give a concrete example, Estonian historian Edgar V. Saks identified the Budini as the Finno-Uralic Votic people.

In the Viking Age and the prior history of Scandinavia and Finland, sagacious men of cunning knowledge and wise women with foresight or medicine skills also had specific titles — like their Scythians counterparts. Old Norse titles included names like galdramadr, seidmadr, seidkona, and vǫlva, to name a few. The last two signify female seeresses, of which the vǫlva was the most revered (the vǫlur were directly related to the Norns mentioned in the Vǫluspá.) What is not widely known, however, is that the Old Norse title “Varðlokkur” from which “warlock” is derived, originally represented a chanting male sorcerer-shaman — although Wikipedia suspiciously disagree. To “perform varðlokkur” in Norse society was to chant songs of protection to summon guardian entities or to call upon healing spirits. Upon completing such a ritual, the “varðlokkur shaman” would pass out and be almost lifeless due to mind and body exhaustion. A young woman then had to perform a healing ceremony while reciting poems until the varðlokkur’s lifeforce returned.

Shamans were highly respected — and feared — in practically all ancient cultures. According to Greek historian Herodotus, the royal Scythians — who were the ruling horse lord warrior tribe that controlled much of the western Eurasian steppe lands — had shamans and diviners that were all male. These were called enaree/enarei (singular/plural), although they were likely also referred to as “gam” by common folk. Herodotus also writes the Scythian enaree were androgynous and effeminate, which is likely a misconception — perhaps for the simple reason Scythian shamans wore robes and cloaks (like Óðinn) and not trousers like Graeco-Roman men. It should also be noted that although Herodotus was a well-traveled and knowledgable man by all accounts, his reports of non-Greeks should be taken with a sizeable spoon of salt — most of what he wrote of other people was viewed and simplified through a lens of a strict Graeco-Roman worldview.

The royal Scythians worshiped eight deities — five gods and three goddesses. The most important were the war god Ares and the goddess of shamans, Argimpasa. In later times, after the Scythians had disintegrated and fused with their lance-wielding Sarmatian “cousins” in the 200-300s CE, soothsayers and shamans of Hunnic, Turkic, and “Proto-Mongolian” cultures were called ch’am and qam in many literary sources. These “shamanic titles” are clearly connected to the Scythian term gam. Skilled linguistics have proposed — with much evidence — that “gam” hails from the name of the Scythian shaman-goddess Argimpasa, whose name was likely pronounced Ar-gam-pasa. Thus, Argimpasa was once the source word for the gam, ch’am, and qam “shamans” of the Eurasian steppes, all the way from the Baltic-Varangian Sea to the Far East in present-day Mongolia; but at the time known more or less as the Gökturk Khaganate. Some might find it interesting that all figures and drawings of the Scythian goddess Argimpasa depict her intertwined with serpents and snakes, creatures that incidentally were highly associated with Viking Age Scandinavia — especially the Viking warships (that aside, many ancient cultures revered serpents.)

The artwork and video animatic for our track “Arnlokkur” depicts a Scythian gam. His clothing, head-gear, color, and pattern detail have been painstakingly verified through months of research by Vinithor Amal and myself, with quite a bit of help from independent as well as academic scholars from all over the world. Moreover, the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg have been incredibly helpful in providing us with critical and invaluable information and photos of steppe-nomadic cultures (St. Petersburg is home to the longest standing and most complete collection of Scythian art and artefacts — in the world!)

On a bit of a side note, 33 is a master number in numerology that implies vitality and relief. It might not be a coincidence then that our recent album “Verjaseiðr” includes five songs totalling 33 minutes. Consider listening to “Arnlokkur” on your music service of choice (or kindly support us on Bandcamp) via this link 🎼 🎹 ► https://legen.do/Verjaseidr

Unlike the shamans of ages past, most modern people can’t communicate with their higher self because they have fears in the way. The frightening voices in our heads are louder than the ones that know our true purpose. If you are one of those who think you can wake up, you should. Because someday — you won’t be able to. Perhaps it might help listening to our label Legendo Music’s playlist “Northern Spirits & Pagan Folk” on Spotify to get into the right mindset and break the spell.


Valgam Akatziri
Valgam “Galdrabragi” Akatziri chants, sings, and brings news of the future from the far reaches of Ásaland. He’s been called gam, a qam, and a seiðr-man — and is ready to take on any challenge that could help bring ancestral insight to the conscious mind.


Hermóðr and Sleipnir boldly deliver news from the far reaches of Ásaland.