Hurstwic Heathen Study Group

In the past, Hurstwic offered a regular series of informal presentations and discussions on topics of interest to heathens and to anyone with a passion for Norse-related topics. At this time, no further meetings are planned. I thank those who have presented and all of those who have joined us to learn about and to celebrate with us the ancient ways of northern Europe.

Many of the Hurstwic Heathen Study Group presentations were preserved in video or in audio, and may be accessed below in this page. They are listed from newest to oldest.

Roundtable Discussion:
Where We Have Been and Where We Should Go Next
September 9, 2019

This was the last meeting at Hurstwic's training facility in Millbury. At this bittersweet moment, we reviewed the past and discussed the future of the study group, and celebrated what we have accomplished over the years.


The way of the Völva:
how it became my way
and how I follow that way

presented by Gudrun Victoria Gotved on August 5, 2019

Gudrun writes: "For many years I have worked with Spirituality. I have been asatru all my life, but during the last 10 years, my practice as a Völva really has grown. This presentation will be about: How I do; What I do; and my thoughts about the way of the Völva."

In this presentation, Gudrun talked about the path she followed to becoming a völva (a Viking-age seeress) and how she practices seiđr, a form of magic from the Viking-age that involves visionary journeys to other realms. It was a fascinating and personal story of her activities, and resulted in a lengthy and lively discussion after the presentation. Gudrun joined us electronically from her home in Denmark. In the photo, she shows us her wand as she describes how she uses it in seiđr.

Gudrun presentation August 2019

Sacrificial blót stones of Iceland:
presented by Kári Pálsson on July 1, 2019

In this presentation, Kári Pálsson talked about the meaning of blót (sacrifice) in Iceland. Kári looked at the meaning of blót to Icelanders, not only in the ancient times, but also in the modern era, and how blót could have both a personal and a public meaning. He reviewed the stories of blót told in Landnámabók and other ancient written sources, and then looked at archaeological finds of blót stones from Iceland: the sacrificial stone blood bowls that tell us more about these ancient rites.

Approaching Old Norse Religions:
What the available sources can tell us about the pre-Christian religions of the North
presented by Ólöf Bjarnadóttir on June 3, 2019

The two main written sources on Old Norse, pre-Christian religions are the Eddic poems and Snorra Edda written in Iceland in the early thirteenth century, a time when Iceland, along with most of Europe and Scandinavia, had converted to Christianity. Though undoubtedly largely originating in pre-Christian mythological material, these sources can therefore only confidently be said to reflect the contemporary knowledge of the subject at the time in which they were compiled. This reality has forced scholars of Old Norse religions to re-evaluate the evidence and broaden their field of research to include a wider range of extant written sources as well as the results of archaeological projects and place name research. This talk introduces the main sources on Old Norse religions and discusses the problems and limitations of their use.

Occult Archaeology: magic and runes in continuum,
presented by Teresa Dröfn Freysdóttir Njarđvík on May 6, 2019

Runes and magic blend, and their use extends well beyond the Viking age in northern Europe. In this presentation, Teresa discussed her research in runes, magic, and the archaeology of the occult, including the study of the grave and grave finds of a völva (Viking-age seeress) burial.

Teresa joined us at Hurstwic electronically, in a real-time interactive connection from Iceland. It was a succesful test of what we plan to be a regular series of lectures by international specialists and experts.

Game Night on April 1, 2019

We play-tested the new rune-based card game Rúnaspili, from Iceland. Two teams of players work together to solve the rune-based puzzles to win the game. It was an enjoyable game, and we all walked away at the end of the evening with a new and more profound knowledge of the runes.

The Icelandic Runes, presented by Dr. William R. Short on March 4, 2019

Most people are unaware of the runic material found in Iceland, dating from the earliest part of the 9th century settlement, through to the early 20th century. Icelanders even modified the younger futhork to meet the needs of their own language.

The presentation begins by reviewing the elder futhork and the younger furthork and the rune poems that provide insight into their meanings, and then looks at the Icelandic material, including the Icelandic futhork and the Icelandic rune poem.

The Norse Discovery of America: Part Two, presented by Gregory M. Lott on February 4, 2019

In a recent Hurstwic Heathen study group meeting, independent researcher Gregory M. Lott discussed the work done by Norwegian explorer and author Helge Ingstad and his archaeologist wife, Anne Stine Ingstad in Newfoundland, Canada. Their extensive efforts demonstrated conclusively that Norse explorers visited North America about 1000 years ago.

In this presentation, Mr. Lott reprised some of this material, and then presented additional information about other far-fetched and fraudulent Viking sites in North America, as well as about serious work currently being done at other potential Norse sites in North America.

An Examination of Liđ: Then and Now, presented by Ethan C. on January 7, 2019.

Ethan C led a roundtable discussion on group identity in the Viking age. Liđ is a word used to describe many kinds of Viking groups, from war parties, to various cohorts that banded together for mutual aid. Ethan discussed the impact of group identity on these groups in the Viking age, comparing it to shared identity in groups today, such as veterans' groups.

rountable January, 2019

A brief audio summary of the contents of the discussion by Ethan C.

Hurstwic Heathen Study Group Yule Feast, on December 3, 2018.


What Did the Vikings Sing? Reconstructing Norse and Viking Music
presented by Lynn Noel on November 5, 2018.

In this presentation, Lynn Noel, a professional musician and heritage interpreter, gave a recorded and live performance demo/discussion of 8th-11th century Norse music as historically informed performance. She reviewed primary manuscript sources, archaeological finds of musical instruments and the luthiers reproducing them, traditional Scandinavian song and chant traditions that complement Icelandic saga and Eddic poetry, and contemporary artists reinterpreting the saga tradition on tour and on television.

The Norse Discovery of America, presented by Gregory M. Lott on October 8, 2018.

The Sagas of Icelanders describe the colonization of Greenland by Erik the Red and the subsequent discovery of land further west by his son Leif Erikson. Leif would name this new land "Vinland the Good." In this presentation, independent researcher Gregory M. Lott revisits the work done by Norwegian explorer and author Helge Ingstad and his archaeologist wife, Anne Stine Ingstad. Their extensive effort would demonstrate how Europeans visited North America nearly 500 years prior to Columbus.


The Modern Practice of Ásatrú, presented by Devin Rogers on September 10, 2018.

In this roundtable discussion, Devin Rogers, a member of the New Vinland group, led a roundtable discussion on the modern practice of Ásatrú, talking about the beliefs and practices of modern heathens who seek to follow the old ways and touching on: ethics; basic theologies and cosmologies; and ritual and structure of modern Ásatrú.

Forging a Mythic Past:
Searching for National Identities through Folklore and Mythology
presented by Patrick Bessey on August 6, 2018.

In the 19th century, amid the movements of Nationalism and Romanticism, scholars across Europe began looking back to ancient folkloric and mythological traditions to create modern works of lore, infused with nationalistic pride. In this presentation, Patrick talked about these movements and the artistic works that resulted, with particular focus on the Brothers Grimm, The Kalevala, Wagner's Ring Cycle, and the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Mead Making - Then and Now, presented by Emily Sandblade and Kyle Marrotte on July 9, 2018.

An informal presentation on making mead in the Viking age and in the modern era. Kyle started with a discussion of what mead is, the importance of mead to Norse culture, and how mead was brewed in Viking times. Then, Emily jumped forward to modern times, and discussed how to make mead today: obtaining the equipment, the consumables, and walking through the steps needed to make your own home-brewed mead.

Forging Relationships within the Heathen Community
a roundtable discussion led by Ethan C. on June 4, 2018.

How do modern heathens build their community and forge relationships with other groups? How do we open doors and break down barriers between people who share our interests and beliefs? In this discussion, we looked at various concrete proposals, some of which are already being put into motion.

Food and Feasting in the Viking Age
a roundtable discussion led by Staci Graves on May 7, 2018.

An informal discussion of how Viking-age people kept themselves nourished and how they celebrated important milestones with food and drink.

Trolls in the Viking Age, presented by Dr. William R. Short on April 2, 2018.

The word troll is used to describe many different kinds of entities in the sagas and eddas, including the expected supernatural creatures such as giants, as well as witches and more-or-less normal humans. What did it meant to be a troll? What distinguished a troll and other paranormal creatures in the ancient northern society?

An Informal Roundtable Discussion, led by Staci Graves on March 5, 2018.

An informal discussion of topics related to Viking-age beliefs and practices in the northern lands, and how they are reflected in modern beliefs and practices.

roundtable discussion

Do You Want Me to Turn Towards You?
presented by William R. Short on February 5, 2018.

The first in a series of roundtable presentations based on classic episodes from the Sagas of Icelanders.

In these discussions, we plan to look at what lies below the surface of the sparse descriptions of the sagas. We will pick an interesting episode, read the passage, and discuss what was left unsaid: points that would have been clear to the original saga audience, but which may be obscure and confusing to a modern audience. This detailed look will lead to better understanding of the people of the Viking age and their society and culture.

In this first presentation, we plan to look at Gísli's revenge killing of Ţorgrímur, told in Gísla saga. Join us for this informal color commentary on the incidents related in the sagas.

an audio recording of the discussion will be available shortly

The Wild Hunt: Furious Hosts and Shadow Processions
presented by Trish Basford on January 8, 2018.

European folklore is rich with tales featuring the Wild Hunt. This presentation is intended as an introduction to the complex collections of legends featuring these ghastly entourages, with an emphasis on the Norse versions. Theories surrounding the origins of the hunt are explored from a heathen perspective.

The Hurstwic Heathen Study Group Yule Feast, on December 28, 2017.  

The Poetic Edda and Eddic Poetry
presented by Dr. William R. Short on November 6, 2017.

Roundtable Discussion on October 2, 2017.

Matthew Nachtrieb led a roundtable discussion of the paper Hedenstierna-Jonson C, Kjellström A, Zachrisson T, et al. A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2017;00:1–8, and of the media and internet broohaha that resulted from the publication of the paper. We discussed what is known and what is not known relating to the Viking-age topics covered in the paper, and we discussed how to find good sources for research, and ways to distinguish good material from rubbish.

Loki: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and to Love þetta reddast
presented by Barbara Wechter on September 11, 2017.

Through study of the eddas, we learn that Loki is more than a mischief maker, he is also an innovator: by embracing the chaos and struggle in life, you can grow.

Women in the Viking Age
presented by Staci Graves and Emily Randall on August 7, 2017.

Alfs, Trolls, and Other Beings, Part 2 - Dwarfs
presented by Ethan C. on July 10, 2017.

Snorri Sturluson tells us in Gylfaginning that the dwarfs began as maggots in the rotting flesh of the giant Ymir, and that the gods endowed these beings with reason. Yet other sources paint a different picture. Who were these beings, and where do they fit into the nine worlds of northern mythology?

Roundtable Discussion on June 5, 2017.

A wide ranging discussion on a variety of topics that covered the gamut from modern Ásatrú to comparisons with other world religions and beliefs to law and society in Viking-age Iceland to elder care in the Viking age.

roundtable discussion

The Heathen Soul, presented by Matthew Nachtrieb on May 1, 2017.

The Walking Dead in the Sagas: Zombies of the Viking Age
presented by Dr. William R. Short on April 3, 2017.

A night of games and fun on March 6, 2017
led by Hurstwic special advisor Reynir A.

card game

A very special meeting on February 6, 2017.

Heathen study group participants joined Hurstwic cast and crew for a screening of Hurstwic's new film, The Final Battle of Grettir the Strong, based on Grettis saga and shot on location in Iceland last year. The film was released in spring, 2017.

A trailer for the film is shown to the right.

A double feature on January 10, 2017.

Ethan C. spoke on Making the Mission
followed by
Matt Nachtrieb speaking on
Fighting in Ginnugagap

Home for the (Heathen) Holidays
presented by Emily Randall on December 5, 2016.

The Coexistence of Heathenry and Christianity in the Viking Age
presented by Dr. William R. Short on November 7, 2016.

Time and World: Passage of Time and Seasons in the Ancient Heathen Worldview
presented by Matthew Nachtrieb on October 3, 2016.

Heathenry Today: Where Have Our Roots Led Us?
presented by Staci Graves on September 12, 2016.

Alfs, Trolls, and Other Beings, part 1
presented by Ethan C. on August 1, 2016.

Life After Death in the Viking Age
presented by Dr. William R. Short on July 11, 2016.

Modern Heathenry: History, Influences, and General Beliefs
presented by Matthew Nachtrieb on June 6, 2016.

Runes - An Introduction and Then Some
presented by Ethan C. on May 2, 2016.

Religion, Myth, and Cult in the Viking Age
presented by Dr. William R. Short on April 4, 2016.


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