Hugr – Northern Spirit Part 3

As part of a deeper exploration, I will be looking at the pieces of the Nordic spirit in more detail, as I only provided a brief survey here, and here. Really what I want to do here is expand on these earlier posts.

As such, a refresher is in order. Here is a brief introduction from Kvideland & Sehmsdor’s book, which introduces to the concept of the hugr.

“ In Scandinavian folk tradition the human soul is usually referred to as hug(r)…. it refers to the mental life of the individual – to personality, thoughts, feelings and desires. There are various and complex conceptions of the hugr imbuing the greater part of Scandinavian tradition…. It was believed that the hug could affect both animate and inanimate objects – including other people – either consciously or unconsciously. The deliberate manipulation of the hugr is the basis of all magic. The hug can manifest itself invisibly or can take on a shape (hamr). In some instances the shape assumed by the hug has developed into an independent supranormal being, as exemplified by the many traditions about the nightmare (mare).
Other important projects of the hugr include the vordr, which is a kind of presence accompanying the individual; the dream-soul, which leaves the body during sleep; the vardöger or fyreferd, a visual or auditory experience presaging a person’s approach; and the free-soul, which is the soul sent from the body in magic flight.” (Kvideland, pg 45.)

As I talked about in Part 1 of this series, the hugr is the closest thing we have to a personal, “self” spirit. Here, I quote from FFA Part 8, from Sarmela’s work.

““2. The persona soul (ghost soul) is an immortal, personal substance residing in all living things, a psyche or ’genetic memory’ into which a person’s individual spiritual experience is collected. The persona soul resides in the innermost recesses of a person, but during dreaming it may travel outside the body or leave the body when the person becomes ill and dies, and after death it may continue wandering independently in a new form.”

This, in my opinion, is the nature of the hugr. Being that it is the sum total of personality, thoughts, feelings and desires, I would say it is the most likely candidate to live on after the death of the physical body. I would also argue that this concept includes what Kaldera calls “mynd”, the memory as well “thought” proper. There must be overlap between the two categories.Besides, personality and thoughts are often based on past experience, and such experiences are certainly part of the hugr spirit.

Let us look more closely at the folklore, for the many traits of the hugr.

Section 1; The Power of Thought (Kvideland, pg 43)

“If a person sneezed, yawned, hiccuped, or felt a tickling sensation, someone was thinking about him or her. Another person’s hug had entered his or her body. It was considered irresponsible to let one’s mind wander because it could bring harm to someone else. Sickness was often explain as resulting from a hug which had entered the body of a sick person or animal.”

This section of the Kvideland book then offers several different tales and stories that fit under this heading.

For example, if your nose itches, someone is thinking about you.

Also, when your ears ring, someone is talking about you. If it is the right ear, it is something nice. If it is the left ear, it is something nasty.

As has been mentioned, manipulation of the hug is the foundation for most forms of magic in the folklore.  As other examples, the hug could be used to change someones mind, or make someone love you. Also, the power of the hug could be transferred to an object or person by sight, touch or spoken word. There are many tidbits of folklore that deal with such things, and they are often referred to the evil eye, evil hand, evil foot or evil tongue.

Envy (Norwegian ovund) and Longing (elsk ‘love’) are both powerful emotions, and powerful versions of the hugr. Envy had adverse effects on both people and animals, making them sick or otherwise ill. Envy could corrode stone, or even kill a person.  Longing could also make a person ill in body and mind.

Curiously, “knocking on wood” is one of the tidbits listed in Kvideland’s book. When you are talking about something (or someone) you love/hold dear it is good to knock softly on the underside of the table three times. Otherwise, ‘something’ may become envious, and take such things from you.

Another form of the hug is as a messenger. There are numerous tales about the hug of a person appearing to another to deliver a message. Such messages were often warnings, or sometimes even omens of death. They could appear in a lot of forms, the shape of a person, a premonition, or even in a dream. This also spills over into ideas of the vordr and the fylgja, which will be discussed in separate posts.

One of the most curious aspects of the hug is the nightmare. Contrary to popular association, the nightmare was not simply a bad dream. In Scandianvian folklore, the mare often visited at night. The mare is the visitation by another’s hug, and is often described as a kind of weight on the chest. It sometimes has sexual connotations, in the form of erotic dreams. The mare effect both humans and animals.

However, there is also lore that describes the mare not just as a nightly visitation by a wayward hug, but as an independent spirit in its own right. It would seem possible that a hug could be powerful enough to spawn a new spirit, such as the mare. This spills over into more modern ideas such as the egregors and servitor spirits.

Many of the aspects of the hug will be explored as I continue to write for this series. In coming posts, I will explore the hamr, vordr, fylgja and others as well. There is certainly a lot more to explore here, and some ideas I want to flesh out even more.

Sources/References;

Kvideland, Reimund & Sehmsdor, Henning. Editors. Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend. Pgs 41 – 64

Kaldera, Raven http://www.northernshamanism.org/shamanic-techniques/shamanic-healing/soul-map.html

Strömbäck, Dag., from the book “Sejd” (2000 edition), pages 220-236. The Concept of the Soul in Nordic Tradition http://vnnforum.com/showthread.php?t=84650

Finnish Folklore Atlas, by Matti Sarmela

 

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About Nicholas Haney

I am a writer, author, hunter, craftsman, and student of anthropology/archaeology. View all posts by Nicholas Haney

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