A Little More About Stav

Many of you have responded positively to my post about the völva, I thought I’d provide you a little more historical context. I hadn’t intended to turn this blog into an education center, but if a little teaching is called for, it’s what I will do gladly.

First, a little fun about the word völva. Though it is strikingly similar to the word vulva (and what Google always thinks you mean when you search around for more information about my subject—that and Volvo), the two words come from different stems of PIE (proto-Indo-European) languages. If you look at the chart below, you will see that Latin and Romance Languages and then Germanic Languages are on different branches. The word we use for female genitalia, vulva, does come from a word “volva,” but this Latin form of the word is also from where we derive “revolve,” as it means “to turn.” The Germanic version of the word völva means something entirely different. The word which translates more closely to vulva in Germanic languages (walwjan, wealwian, weoloc, and walzan) is more akin to spiral, roll, wheel, and waltz. About a year or so ago, I latched on to the term helix. Völva, on the other hand, with an umlaut[1], translates into “wand carrying woman” (in that it is a female word) or “stav carrying woman.” Therefore, the relationship between völva and stav is not new. As a matter of fact, as you can see, the stav is part and parcel with the term völva.


The term “stav” has a bit of a multiple meaning. “Stav” means both “stave,” the physical weapon or “staff,” and the martial art which employs the stav. It also means “rune-stave,” magical symbols carved into items—look them up, they are fairly Goetic-looking. It can also refer to a perpetual calendar (aka Runic Almanac) based on the cycle of the Moon over 19 years. See this for more funtimes. The term also refers to runic characters themselves. Stav meditations, that is to say meditations on the meanings of the runes, date back to circa 500 CE.

Further, meditations using stav are not new (and the relationship between völva, stav, meditation, and Yggdrasil alignments are not new–that is to say, these are techniques that have a deep and meaningful history). Like yoga, Stadhagalr (sometimes misnamed runic “yoga”[2]) is a technique of meditation which uses gestures and postures to reach higher levels of consciousness and enact seiðr (magic).


Many of these techniques were written down and codified by various practitioners—Stav by Ivar Hafskjold (who claims it is based on oral tradition preserved in his family since the 6th Century) in the 1990s, Yggdrassil alignments galore (by the likes of Per Lundberg and a YellowPages search of “Yggdrasil Yogaskole” will yield a list of yoga classes across Norway that use Yggdrasil meditations), and Stadhaglr by F.B Marby, S.A. Krummer, and Karl Spiesberger in the early 20th Century. However, they are centuries older than that—we just don’t have a formal manuscript to point to their origins. (We have a good deal of Medieval texts—a few earlier.) According to Sarah Lynn Higley in “Dirty Magic: Seiðr, Science, and the Parturating Man in Medieval Norse and Welsh Literature,”[3] The Book of Taliesin “show[s] a preoccupation with the hermetic and pseudo-scientific knowledge popular in medieval wisdom traditions. . . . [As] “Angar Kyfyngdawt” . . . list[s] supernatural attributes spoken in the first person by the Taliesin persona who boasts of his exploits, ordeals, secrets, and incarnations as animals and objects” (137). This is just to say that seiðr and its shapshifting element, in astral projection or “pathworking” or “journeying,” is nothing new—just that it is becoming “re-popular.”

I hope this clarifies a few things about the age of stav practices, the variety of stav practitioners, and the differences between traditional stav-work and contemporary applications of ancient practices. And I hope it gives the interested a few more resources to pursue.

I have magic-class tonight and one of my students is bringing me a behbeh kitteh that she rescued from under a shed. Starting tomorrow my posts may be much less academic and reflect how much “I really love cats”[4] in an eHarmony sort of way. All cats all the time.

Waes hael,


[1] To denote a “front” vowel—the ö is the sound in early or burn.

[2] I feel about using “yoga” to define stadhaglr about like I feel when folks use “shamanism” to talk about journeying or spirit walking. Yoga : Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism :: Shamanism : Samoyedic / Tungusic Siberians and Mongals and their various descendants. I plan to write a post in the near future about the words we use to signify “altered states of consciousness in which we interact with the spirit world and the benevolent and malevolent spirits who reside there” or “entering into a trance state to practice divination and healing.”

[3] Essays in Medieval Studies 11.

[4] Of course, “I think about how many don’t have a home.”


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