Already while being a child I had images before my inner eyes in which I saw myself wandering through the woods with a walking stick. I wore a dress and a cape with a hood and wandered from place to place. I could talk to the trees and the animals and knew when the rain was coming or when the wind was turning.
These pictures accompanied me again and again through my life, the woman with the staff. I went through my shamanic initiations, but there I found no staff. I received my instruction to become a priestess, but even there there was not really a staff bearer as I had seen her as a child.
At a ceremony in a grove of honour in the Teutoburg Forest, where I sent the deceased into the light, she was asked to pick up both the crystal of my mother and the skull of one of my shamanic teachers. On the right the double end rock crystal, on the left the Labradoit skull I sat there, while the ceremony was in progress. The message I received was clear – bring both together. You are neither a shaman nor a priestess – your way is both. I felt the relief – for in all those years I was always torn back and forth between the two paths, which apparently were quite different.
As I sat in front of the computer in the evening I followed the inspiration and looked for “shamanic priestess”. And then I saw her in front of me: the woman with the staff. And I knew I had found my way.
I had the feeling that I finally had a word for all that I am and do, the heritage that I carry within me. And I felt with every cell: here is the answer to the question that I had carried around with me for so long. I saw a woman with a cape and a staff in the forest – a Völva.
The carrier of the staff
The word Völva means actually quite simply woman with staff, or woman who carries the staff. The Völva – in the Nordic also Vølve or Volva, in the Germanic also Wala – is a seer, fortune teller, witch, sorceress, prophetess, priestess and shaman. She carries parts of all of them within her and wanders between worlds and places.
For the Völva, the staff represents their knowledge and practice. It was a symbol of power. In the case of the Völva, it symbolises power over the supernatural. Today we still recognise this symbolism in the king’s sceptre and the magic wand. Beside the wooden stands there were also metal curved rods, which can even be traced back to ancient Egypt. Even the names of the Völva indicated the importance of the staff. Thus “Ganna”, the name of a Germanic Völva, is possibly related to the Old Norse Gandr, which means magic wand.
Nowadays one would say that a Völva is not a limited specialist, but a powerful all-rounder. A Völva was not only magically active, she was also a consultant for worldly decisions. So she connected both worlds and knew how to translate and apply the messages from the “other world” into this world. A Völva is a mediator between the worlds – people who needed advice came to her, she became a
The Völva first embarks on a journey to herself before traveling to help others. In modern terms, she begins with her own family and origins – her Oorlog and Wyrd. Wyrd, or Wurd, is a Germanic term that describes the general fate or destiny, primarily that of human beings. Without self-help we cannot help others. She travels far to test her knowledge and gain broader insights.
History of the Völvas
The most famous Völva is Heiði in the apocalyptic prophecy Völuspá (literally: “Prophecy of Völva”). It is assumed that she writes this song of goodness about herself.
In the German-speaking area Veleda was a highly respected Völva, which also worked on the Externsteine. Even today the “seat of Veleda” is named after her. The name Veleda is derived from the Celtic word veld for see, which gave the cosmetic company Weleda its name. She lived secluded in a tower not far from the Lippe. It is said that she communicated as a seer only through relatives who transmitted the inquiries and answers. In the year 77 she was captured by the Romans or they granted her asylum after an uprising. Even in the 2nd century the Völva Waluburg – the name is probably related to the old Germanic Walus, which means magic wand or staff – from the Germanic tribe of the Semnons in Egypt served in a Roman army camp. So the Romans made use of the services of the wise and powerful women – sometimes voluntarily, sometimes under duress. The Völvas were highly respected and known throughout Europe. Some Celtic scholars also refer to the Völvas as female druids, but this does not do justice to their status.
The Völvas consciously chose isolation and being outside the close community, because it allowed them a clear view of the connections and processes. So they were fully present when they helped and did their work and were rather withdrawn in their being. By her clear view the Völva could recognize things that remained hidden to others and thus had the ability to advise the chiefs and tribal leaders free of personal interests.
With the targeted Christianisation in Europe in the 4th century, the targeted promotion of religion began. At the latest with the missionary Saxon Wars Charlemagne the last Völvas officially disappeared from the scene. The expanding missionary work and conversions to Christianity systematically displaced the original indigenous spirituality and replaced it with religion. This was also supported by ecclesiastical and civil laws against the Völvas, as in this Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical law:
If any Wicca (witch), Wiglaer (sorcerer), false oath, Morthwyrtha (worshipper of the dead) or any dirty, obvious Horcwenan (whore) is anywhere in the country, man will expel her. We teach that every priest should wipe out paganism and forbid Wilweorthunga (well worship), Licwiglunga (incantations of the dead), Hwata (omens), Galdra (magic), human worship and the abominations that humans practise in various kinds of witchcraft, and in Frithspottum (peace enclosures) with elms and other trees, with stones and with many phantoms.
1st canonical law enacted under King Edgar in the 10th century.
The Völvas were persecuted and killed in the course of Christianisation, which also led to an extreme polarisation of the role of women in Germanic society.
Völva in modern times
A Völva connects the wisdom about ceremonies with the knowledge about the other world, she can walk between the worlds and see connections and things that are hidden to others. Nowadays she acts as a mentor and spiritual advisor. She can make contact with the ancestors and transmit messages. She recognises the potential of those who come to her and can create a clear vision for the coming steps – whether business plan or personal development. A modern Völva mediates between worlds, can negotiate with spirits and support salary negotiations. She is mentoring and crisis helper at the same time. She is the contact person for all the intangible topics and an expert for all the symptoms whose cause cannot be found. She shakes the status quo, is on the point and absolutely present.
My path as Völva
Early on I began to travel – without ever having heard of a Völva – in order to learn. I travelled to Cologne at the age of 15 to learn more about repatriation and then to Canada, Holland, New Mexico, La Gomera, Arizona and Egypt – always to learn or test my knowledge and skills. Unlike the priestess, the Völva is not bound to a temple, she wanders around. For me it was a relief to learn this, because I have always found it difficult to hold a single temple. I am the one who travels. Even my Diné name points that out. Walking my way in the tradition of the Völvas means for me to reconnect actively with our spiritual heritage. In my work, I bridge the divisions between your individual “spiritual professions” that are thought of today, but reconnect them as the Völvas did.
I combine this ancient wisdom with modern knowledge, because I also believe that it is not about doing everything exactly as it was then, but about adapting it to today’s circumstances. Spirituality is not a religion carved in stone, but a pulsating truth that runs through all our veins. It does not insist on fixed processes, but adapts to the circumstances.
And so nowadays I don’t wear leather shoes anymore and live in a wooden hut, but paint my nails and am happy about my heated apartment in Hamburg. I walk between the worlds and ride my bike through the urban jungle at the same time. I communicate with ancestors and deceased and at the same time send emails to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. All this is not a contradiction when we realize that there is not this world and every world – but only one world. To recognize it in its full extent frees us. From the illusion of lack, of being cut off, of loneliness and the feeling that we still have something to do.
A modern Völva combines ancient wisdom with modern knowledge. It opens the way to a new world.