I am biting the bullet.
For years I've wanted to learn Icelandic, mostly because I groove on languages, and also because one of my ancestors was from there. Not having a really good reason to learn a language I was never, ever going to speak, I didn't.
Now I have a reason.
Since April I've been working with and exploring seiðr ("sayth"), a shamanic-like indigenous magic that was practiced by the old Norse peoples and which is spoken of in the sagas. Seiðr is somewhat of a mystery to modern peoples since we don't really know how it was done, nor do we know what it actually did.
There are other related workings called spá and galdr, practices which encompassed shamanism, sorcery, prophecy and other forms of indigenous magic. Some modern practitioners lump all of this under seiðr, and some like to separate all of the different practices using the different words for them found in the sagas.
Personally, I have no idea.
What I do know is that spá or spae is written about almost exclusively as a method of prophetic divination, or augury. Seiðr in general is described as being used for healing, cursing, weather-working and for changing events. For a longer article, see the Wikipedia article on the Völva or Spae Wife.
I also know that I have been drawn to this practice like a moth to a flame, my ancestral imprints tugging at me from the ancient past. After my first session of oracular seiðr, of actually being a seiðmaðr on the High Seat, I felt as if I'd been born with a staff in my hand. The practice felt so oddly familiar to me, and they fit me like a comfortable well-loved and well-used glove.
These practices also calling deeply to others who are sharing this journey with me: one of my study group mates was plunged into rich visual imagery as I read to the group from the best-known account in the sagas of the ritual of an oracular High Seat spae from the saga of Eirik the Red. Her images contained several details I had not mentioned but which are written of in other sagas. Um, and did I say she's of Norwegian descent?
So, I've ordered a book on beginning Icelandic so that I can possibly begin to read some of the sagas that have not been translated yet. Further down the rabbit hole ...